Hello everyone! How is your week going so far? Tomorrow is Friday! I want to talk about my mini-vacation with family last week. My family and I went to visit some relatives in the Maryland/DC area. One of the events we went to was a Ndakum. (Time to learn about some African Culture!!!)
What is a Ndakum?
A Ndakum (pronounced Nnn-da-come) is a Cameroonian tribal meeting held on the first Friday of each month. Various families come and bring food, like a potluck. Then talk about problems that the community is facing both in the United States and in Cameroon. A different family will host the Ndakum each month, with each meeting lasting about four hours. The location for the meeting is either someone’s house or rented hall space. If you cannot tell, this is going to be a long post. Do not worry I’m going to split it up into two. I hope you guys stick around and enjoy. And remember live, love, and laugh.
Cameroonians show pride in their country at Ndakums. Each region, city, and village has its own specialty food(s) that it is known for. For example, the Bali people (who’s Ndakum I went to) are known for their Fufu and Jamma-jamma dishes. Every tribe has its own set of idealistic and personal characteristics that represent the area. From the way, it is cooked, to the ingredients used. The Ndakum is the best place to showcase your skill and expertise in cooking and knowledge of your areas’ foods.
If you were late you have to pay a fee, usually around one to five dollars. This forces people to come out early, most of the time, when the time of the event starts and forces them to actively socialize and communicate with others within the community. Especially if a new member coming to the meeting.
Gender Roles in the Culture
Women and men both play different roles. Notability the notion of the man being the head of the household and table. Women provide the meal. They do the cooking, preparing, and serving of the meal. While the men provide the drinks.
All about the Food
The dishes at the Ndakum demonstrate how we as Cameroonians eat, prepare, serve, and consume our foods. It is how we can express and distinguish ourselves from other Africans both culturally and socially. For Cameroonians, presentation is everything. Food presentation is carried as a symbol within the culture. The way your dish looks reveals a lot about your character, personality, and values. At the meetings, it is looked down upon a woman if she cannot cook a dish properly, whether it is from her region or not. It can great pride or shame to her husband’s name, her household, and her ability to be a “good” African woman if she cannot cook well (sorry, I was not able to take pictures of the food, it’s a courtesy thing).
Children are served first, then women, and last men. Since now I am an adult, I also have to wait with the other adults when food was being served. Women who cooked serve the food in an assembly-line fashion. Roughly 10 to 15 women feed 100 to 200 people. Even though the process of getting food was robotic, the women were not. They were smiling, communicating, and gossiping all at once. These women have been preparing these meals for years, so they were comfortable around each other they made solidarity within their work. Women at the last meeting already know who is cooking for the next meeting. They discuss who is cooking what meal or dish. The women create a sisterhood. The Ndakum is an educational experience for the generations born in the US. We learn traditions, how to cook food, and how our culture is tied with the cuisine we make and eat. It is our way to connect with ancestors we can never get to be with.
The African Food Chain
An arrangement of a hypothetical food chain can also be seen in Ndakums. Where the chief or president is at the top. They are held with high honor and respect. Even though it is an elected position, they are always the ones to commence the prayer and the serving of the food. The High Table is for president/chief and their officers. They sit sperate from everyone else (which I totally did not take a picture of).
Etiquette also a large part of the Ndakum. How you eat your food is significant and carefully watched by those around you. Hand food has to be eaten with hands. Cleanliness is essential. As you eat you are to keep your surroundings neat. Both women and men volunteer to clean up after the meal as well. In cleanliness and etiquette, both genders are view as equal and held to the same standard.