By Tim Hazell
African-American poet Henri Dumas (1934-1968) constructed layered urban grids. Voodoo conjuration was regarded as a form of cultural retrieval, facilitating connections with the rejuvenating powers of ancestors through a ceremony of souls. In “Brown Sounds” Dumas orchestrates music of incantations that pulse and exude vitality.
“Brown sound chocolate memories / like the first time you saw grapes and tasted them and learned the color blue/brown sound cream milk echoes like the first time you saw bees and tasted gold and learned the honey tongue / brown sound America like the first time you learned the grand canyon…”
Voodoo (Vodun) has inspired gifts of great art from poets, sculptors, and painters such as Antoine Dupré, Gizou Lamothe, and Hector Hyppolite. “Haitian Renaissance” and developments in New Orleans within Creole communities integrated pagan and Christian rituals, liturgy, sacrament, and politics.
Water and earth, corn, yam, lentil, drum, and tree pound in gestures of African mythology as an immersion and lived myth, “to honor and re-illuminate those ancient things that remain in the ears.” For countless generations of Akan, Dogon, Egyptian, and Sudanese cultures, harnessing water’s kinetic energy symbolized a rite of passage. Monopolization and control of this resource gave visionaries autonomy to imagine new worlds. Water as prophecy carried with it the potential for violence and pushes jagged images through a Dumas hallucination in “Take This River.”
Near the shine of the rivers blood face,
The canals veil of underbrush sweats frost,
And this ancient watery scar retains
The motionless tears of men with troubled spirits.
Sub-Saharan cuisine is a potpourri of cross-cultural influences from indigenous African societies, Arab traders, Yemeni, Indian, and Ethiopian peoples. Regional cookery includes an enticing variety of stews, such as this robust version of Sudan and Senegal’s groundnut (peanut) dishes.
Groundnut Stew with Spinach
1-1/2 lb. pork, cubed
3 tbsp. oil
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 red or green serrano chili, finely chopped
4 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 sweet potato, cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 cups beef stock
2/3 cup smooth or crunchy natural peanut butter
1-2 bunches spinach, rinsed, dried, and shredded
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add cumin seeds. Allow to color, about 30 seconds. Add onions, garlic, and coriander. Fry on medium heat, stirring until golden. Add salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and chili. Add tomato paste and a little stock. Stir to blend the ingredients. Add cubed pork and stir to coat. Add sweet potato, chopped tomatoes, and potatoes. Add beef stock. Remove a spoonful of cooking liquid, blend with the peanut butter and return to the saucepan. Cook partially covered until the liquid is reduced and meat is tender. Add spinach about two minutes before turning off the heat and stir. Serve with flat breads, plain rice, or couscous and side vegetables.