Charles Abani is not a professor, unlike Prof Gabriel Andrade whose article – Don’t Facts Matter Anymore? Netflix’s ‘Queen Cleopatra’ Promotes Afrocentrist Nonsense – Abani is responding to in this piece. But Abani has exposure and wisdom to shatter professorial pettiness on the complicated theme of truth as we can see in his qualitative experiential illustration of the folly of univocality. Without trying to usurp readers’ judgement, Intervention is more than fulfilled to be publishing Abani’s piece. Read on!
By Charles Abani
An interesting article. Frankly I don’t know enough about this history. But the story makes me think of another – that claims our “coloured rice”, popularly referred to as Jollof rice, originated from the Senegambia, where the terms Bemechin and Chebugen describe their form of “coloured rice”. That story takes no account of the fact that indeed they were a “broken rice” nor the fact that they indeed include elements that are clearly “unAfrican” in their origin.
I postulate a much simpler explanation. It goes thus:
“A white man landed upon the shores of the Senegambia where he was offered a coloured rice (made by the Wolof people) called Chebugen or Bemechin. He ate it. As he journeyed further down the West Africa coast (towards the bight of Benin) he asked for food and was again served coloured rice. Given his first encounter, he “named it” by the tribe which first served him this rice – the Wollof (except of course, he called it Jollof as his accent did not enable him to say Wollof). And the name stuck – undermining a variety of “coloured rices” cooked along the West African Coast by its people. Indeed, coloured foods (including rice) predate his arrival on our coast (and other versions of it, cooked with palm oil abound – yam porridge, mixed beans or red-red according to Ghanaians, Moi-moi, Banga rice and soup, and numerous other varieties).
In truth, we should be thankful that the did not first go through Spain and eat Paela (another coloured rice cooked by those folks, itself probably a stolen recipe) or India where he would have encountered Biriyani (yet another form of “coloured rice”). If he had, our coloured rice would probably have “its origins” in India or Spain – what a joke!!! Different cultures have been mixing foods in ways that may be similar – but with very different origins – simultaneously and at the same time out of their local experiences. To believe there is “one origin” is to be academically naive and disrespectful of the many deep cultures that flourished across the world and did not “evolve from one place”. UNESCO’s arrogance (when they claim to settle the debate on the “origins of Jollof rice” needs to be challenged.
History is what it is. An amalgam of stories based on myopic and often ignorant perspectives and experiences, written from a prism that was so constrained it would be laughable today.
That is why those who speak Swahili have a saying where they describe “foolishness” as “a white man”. It is simultaneously both correct and ignorant. As are many other “home truths”.
What is more interesting is “why” people are hell-bent on “their truths” being “the only truths”. There are many truths (and without, or even dare I say, with some form of “evidence” – they still don’t constitute “THE TRUTH” except to those who have a purpose deeper and more sinister to prove. And those persons have already perverted the art of “history”. Their bias makes them perverted. And so, we must discard it all – in a better pursuit (that of celebrating the concurrent diversity of creativity) which neither places Africans below or above others – merely different.
Because in that drive to prove white or black superiority, we have all failed to explain the existence of a wise and capable black continent long before whites stopped living savagely, nor been able to explain the obliteration of that intelligence and wisdom at a point in black people (and its sudden emergence elsewhere).
And while we continue this nonsense quest for superiority and “firsts”, have we ever stopped to think it was neither of us – and possibly (in my view much more plausibly) an alien intelligence that was far superior to any Sapien being. And its movement across our planet at different periods (and the lack of sustainability in its disappearing wake) accounts for these “missing pieces” and inexplicable ascendancy and descent – much better than this feeble, unintelligent squabble over who did what (when actually none of you did it – black or white).