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Core class explores African cuisine, culture
Posted Dec. 3, 2007

During International Week, a section of Davenport Dining Hall was transformed into an African mini-conference and festival. From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 13, students in Phil Hofer’s Core 310 class, International and Intercultural Experience, presented the culture and desserts of various sub-Saharan African countries and Traditional West African dancers performed.

The night was sponsored by the Campus Activities Board, the African American Student Association and Hofer’s Core 310 class.

“We picked Tanzania, and talked about their culture, foods and interesting facts, hoping to give people knowledge on each different country,” Knewenle Stanley, a senior psychology major said.

The class was divided into pairs, and each group had to cover a certain country in sub-Saharan Africa, and then create a poster board in order to educate event attendees on the country they chose. The countries featured include Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

Sodexho provided attendees with their spin on traditional sub-Saharan African cuisine, and Core 310 students created desserts native to their chosen countries to accompany the meal.

The project turned out to be a learning experience for Core 310 class members and event attendees alike.

“For me it’s interesting because my family is Portuguese. Our foods and traditions are similar to those in Mozambique, which was colonized by Portugal,” Ashley Miguel, a senior theatre arts major said.

Miguel and her teammate, Ana Perfecto, created a tasty dessert called malasadas, which are very similar to doughnuts. These puffy treats, sprinkled with powdered sugar, are native to Portugal, but are now commonly found in Mozambique.

Each group’s poster board featured information on the culture, traditions and various issues presently affecting the country they researched.

“There was a lot of reading and a lot of looking. It’s difficult to talk about South Africa without bringing up some atrocities,” Adam Evans, a junior biology major said.  “My group created a South African dessert called ‘soetkoekies,’ which literally translates to ‘spice and wine cookie.’ This event was a joint venture between Sodexho and AASA to bring awareness to African culture and food,” Evans said.

“Phil decided to do this African experience and came to AASA. It’s great to inform the students,” Ashley Joseph, vice president of AASA and a senior psychology major said.

And for black students participating in the Core 310 class, the learning experience was especially acute.

“Being African American you’re not knowing your African heritage. This project helped me learn about the different regions and cultures in Africa,” said Ryan Figgs, a junior in business marketing and AASA member. “Now if anyone asks me about African issues, I’ll be able to respond professionally, and I’ll have some knowledge on the topic.”

The Core 310 class traditionally covers cultures that are commonly represented in the Los Angeles area. Hofer also requires his students to interview an individual from a region the class discusses, and this year he brought in someone from Tanzania to speak to the class about their country.

“I chose Africa for the Core 310 class because we don’t have many African students at ULV to expose them to the various cultures of Africa,” Hofer said. “We know so little about Africa in general. We have very little exposure, but far too many stereotypes like AIDS and hunger. Having lived in Africa myself, I know there’s a lot of dignity and pride there. I hope my students have communicated that here tonight.”

Giselle Campbell can be reached at gcampbell@ulv.edu.