Cultural Café features a look at Nigerian life and a taste of its cuisine
MACOMB — Western Illinois University’s Center of International Studies (CIS) hosted Culture Café Nigeria Tuesday to to an audience of about 70 students, faculty and area residents.
The recurring program features different countries and provides participants with samples of authentic cuisine and an informational presentation on the country being featured. This event took place in the University Union heritage Room and featured authentic Nigerian cuisine and a cultural profile of Nigeria.
CIS Assistant Director Dana Sistko said 370 students from over 60 countries currently attend Western Illinois university.
“Nigeria happens t obe the second largest population of foreign students who attend the university, with 62 students from Nigeria,” she said.
Guest speaker Ibiyinka Amokeodo presented a brief national and cultural profile of Nigeria.
Beginning with a basic geographic orientation, Amokeodo said Nigeria is a West African nation bordering Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north and has a population of approximately 200 million individuals.
Nigeria is one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, with a capacity of 2.8 million barrels a day. It gained independence from the British Empire in 1960 and now is a democratic country similar to the U.S. with three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial, and presidential elections held every four years. Muhammadu Buhari is the 15th President of Nigeria. There are two major political parties in Nigeria: the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC).
Looking past the national statistics, Amokeodo said, “Nigeria is a beautiful place, and we have some beautiful places where you can relax and go to.” She went through a pictorial review of Nigeria, and spoke about the different areas of the country.
She described the city of Lagos, with a tropical beach that provides a “very serene environment. It’s where you can go to relax,” she said. The city also proffers a cable wire car spanning the breadth of the city. People who like animals and adventure can visit the Lekki Conservation Centre, which also boasts a suspension bridge that she felt was “kind of scary.”
Amokeodo also explored some of the economic opportunities in Nigeria.
“If you want to try and do business in Nigeria, the place to be is Lagos because it is the home of markets,” she said.
Nigeria is subdivided into 36 states and the federal capital territory. Abuja is the capital state.
“In Abuja, there are two iconic places: the Zuma Rock and also the National Mosque,” she said, and added the two major religions in the country are Christianity and Islam.
People in Nigeria dress in traditional attire reflecting the cultural traditions of their tribes and status in their society. As she spoke from the lectern, Amokeodo gestured to her own style of dress which she said was a Yoruba style, and then pointed towards the Igbo and Hasua manner of dress pattered after their respective Nigerian tribes.
Nigeria's educational system is called the 6-3-3-4 in reference to the number of years spent at each level of schooling..
“You spend the first six years in primary school, then three years in junior high school because it is a secondary school in Nigeria, and then you spend another three years in the senior high school and then four years in university,” she said. Nigeria has over 90 universities comprised of a number of private and public institutions of higher learning.
Amokeodo said that Nigeria has a diverse compliment of dishes, and displayed pictures of the different foods consumed by Nigerian people. In addition to learning about the cuisine, participants also had the opportunity to sample a buffet lunch with an entrée of jollof rice and for desert, puff-puff(s).
“Jollof rice is a mixture of rice, tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions, habaneros and chicken,” Amokeodo said. “There is also a common drink called zobo, which is made out of a leaf. So, you burn the leaf and make it into a drink. It is very good.”
For people who are interested in attending more Cultural Café events, CIS Assistant Director Dana Sistko announced there cultural event focusing on Switzerland scheduled for Monday, November 5 at noon in the Union Heritage Rooms.
Reach Christopher Ginn by email at email@example.com or find him on Facebook.