15/06/2021
Banji Chona:
I was trying to put into text what my concept was. And my concept was basically this traditional process of kutwa. And, like I've depicted the women doing it, the objects or tools that they use, and in the background of the first one, that is maize meal. So that's the traditional packet the cornmeal comes in. So I use that as a background. And I used the maize meal in its pre-form, and its post-form to kind of obscure the women's faces, just to add all the elements that are constitutive of this process. I went to my WhatsApp and searched “nshima” to see all the different conversations I've had around nshima. And this one particular one was quite funny. I asked a friend of mine who is English and came to live in Zambia for a few months, and I said,
                “What is Zambia in four words?”
                                        and he said, “work, work, nshima, and work”. 
And I think that's quite interesting because that's also not just the expatriate perception of the country - that's how a lot of people view it. And I guess, I found it interesting that regardless of the social strata or social background you come from, you will frame the country in that way. I mean, it means different things to different people. So I was thinking of expanding on this prompt for people. And maybe putting it on like, Instagram story, you know, those questions, stickers, and just asking people to, to share with me their ideas of nshima or their ideas of Zambia and seeing if those two concepts cross lines. But yeah, my food diary was quite interesting. Because often I find that I eat and forget to record it. So it would become a process of remembering two days later, or having to scramble my brain and be like, “oh, what did I eat yesterday” which showed me how sometimes we're a bit detached from food if we're eating it just for nutrition and not for pleasure. The ones that I actually remembered are the meals I really enjoyed.


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                        Yeah. I mean, there's lots of pasta rosso in your food diary.

Banji Chona:
Yes. I guess our diets change depending on where we are geographically. I put little stars on the meals that aren't Italian, you know because I'm living in Italy now. So I'm eating lots of Italian food, also, just by virtue of accessibility and what I can find in the shops. So seeing how much Italian food I eat was one thing. The second thing that was quite interesting was that the non-Italian food I ate was basically like Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food. Like falafel and shawarma. I'm still trying to figure out what that contextually means, but I only had one Zambian traditional meal. Which would be completely different to if I was in Zambia, for example. I think it would be good to do this continuously every week to see if there are any patterns that form. So that's my food diary for this week. Would you like to share yours?


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                                    Yes.
        Okay, so I wanted to share my screen to show you this screen recording.

Banji Chona:
                Okay, perfect. I've made you the host.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                                               Can you see anything?

Banji Chona: 
        Not yet. No.
                                     Yes, now it says your... ah perfect I can!


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
So, same as you, I forgot everything I was eating! I think in approaching this, I was a bit worried because just living here you don't really get to eat ...you eat local food.
And sometimes it becomes so drawn out because we eat a lot of rice and lentil dishes, rice and stew, and jollof rice and chicken repeatedly. We eat fried chicken, that's a regularity. There is a particular restaurant that I usually engage with. It's called Yakoyo. And they basically just serve rice or soups or really cheaply or discounted. They sell continental stuff, but also traditional meals. And it's Yoruba. Basically in Nigeria, there are three main native, cultural sects; there's Igbo, Yoruba and then there is Hausa.Yoruba are West and Southwest, Igbo's are in the Southeast, and the Hausas are in the North. And through all these three major tribes, the food is always so different. So I find this exchange very interesting because it can be very mechanical. It's like,
                “Hello, good afternoon, I want to make an order.”
                                                      And, she says “good afternoon”.
And, you know, there is usually the question of what is available.. But it's very short and quick. And as we can see, I'm eating a lot of oha soup, lots of jollof rice, plantain, and turkey. I just thought about this for a while because I've been ordering like this from them since February. Today, I ordered from them again via this channel. And I had never really thought that I could trace my diet and see the things that were recurrent in this way. I’m realizing that I really just need three major things. I'm just thinking, how am I going to expand out of that?
                                    [Laughs]


Banji Chona:
                                                [Laughs]
Yeah, like with the pasta rosso that I've been eating, it’s mainly a question of access.
            One, like how easy it is to get. Two, how affordable it is.
I think our diets often have the ability to reflect where our finances are, in a way, right? But then it's not just individual finances, but also collective societal finances. A lot of Italian people in general, for example, regardless of what social strata they're in, will eat simple pasta rosso because that was what was traditionally every man's food. And it hasn't been divided into social strata, like say, language or information or even, places to go.
   And it's the same in Zambia, you know!
So it's interesting to see how food isn't as affected by systems of hierarchy as much as all these other things that we interact with in the world.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
What you’ve said makes me think of the place that I mentioned, Chicken Republic, right? It’s this huge food conglomerate. And it's really terrible, in terms of quality, but they’ve found a way to balance being fast food with being good sustenance. And it's priced at a cheap price. 
                        But what I always find is that everybody - whether or not you're coming from a higher class,                     or a higher earning power - everybody eats it.
It's quick and accessible, and it energises. And I think what I like about the exchange between me and this person is this quickness. I want to approach it like a script of some kind and see what that would feel like if you know, he was just read out by two people. Cos this is February to June - well, that's about five months of eating, and I’d like to be able to take the data and figure out what the hell I've been putting in my stomach.
But yeah, you're right about it being this thing where you're eating passively to get through the day, you don't really want to think too much, especially because it takes time and in the way that life is structured now. Because we can't really do the relaxed, leisure-like thing that we want to do with food. Productivity is more important here. It's either,
                “let's just eat quickly”
        or otherwise eating is treated in a very mundane way.


Banji Chona: 
Yeah, that's perfect. Because as we both found out, Whatsapp is a great archive. They have that search bar at the top where you can just put a certain keyword in and get all these different lines of conversation.

Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                    I found the screenshot you shared really funny.

Banji Chona:
Exactly. It's a very passive archive. Here’s another dictionary definition that I took a picture of. I have a Tonga dictionary here. And Tonga is the language that -- I mean, all tribes across Zambia do pound a lot of their stuff but I'm focusing on the Tonga tribe, because that's, I guess, the tribe I'm more familiar with, so I'm half Bemba, and half Tonga. But I mainly grew up around my Tonga side, so I'm more culturally aware of certain practices there. When I was looking at the Tonga dictionary,  the word lya, which is derived from to eat also means to discuss.  And I found that quite interesting because today I came across another post on Instagram, which said,
                    “mind your diet and that's not just what you eat, but what you consume”
        like information or energy, these sorts of things.
Now I'm seeing that in a tonga dictionary which is reflective of the culture almost, so that's always been there. What's this interesting spidergram?


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:  22:19 
Just thinking about Nigerian food, I wrote down words that just came to me and laid them out in a scattered way and as the process followed I started to connect the words that I felt should be connected together.
And the words I used are
                                                “culture”, 
                            “travel”,
                                                                                “spicy”,
        “grainy”,
                                                                                                  “colorful”

              “heavy”,

                                                                                       “meaty”,

                          “diverse”,
                                                          “identity”,
I was thinking of how we have such a diverse culture and each of us belongs to very specific tribes. Nigeria, we have like over 250 different tribes and 500 plus languages, only three are highlighted, but each has a specific meal and I don't even think I've covered all of them. Food from the North is not something I'm very familiar with at all because I've lived down South all my life. I also tried to play around with the fact that food travels. We can kind of think of it as creating a map and trying to visualise what that journey looks like.


Banji Chona:
That's brilliant. I quite like that idea. You know, where you lay out these individual words and then connect the dots. I think I'll also try and do something similar with Zambian food, and then try and connect my dots and your dots.


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                    Yeah, exactly, exactly.
I’d like to figure out what descriptive words come to mind when I think of Zambian food. Then compare with you to see if there are any linking textures or descriptive words.


Banji Chona: 
Yes! It's so hot here today. It's actually unbelievable. It's 32 degrees, but it feels like 39.
                    But finally, Mercury in Retrograde is over.


Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu:
                        Finally!
It’s really been a rough month.

Banji Chona:
I'm telling you. I actually didn't realize it was over. But I just felt like a little release of energy. I hadn't danced on my own in my house for so long. And I just felt compelled to do it. And it felt like a release and I got a notification from my phone saying
                                   “you can breathe now.”
And I was like, “it makes sense”.


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