From the Ground Up: Visit From the Nigerians and a Community Feast!

by Melissa Harding

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As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table and will be communicating with students at their partner institutions. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students. Students will also meet each month for a Saturday workshop involving activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. Calling themselves the Global Chefs, this group of students is excited to learn more about what food means in their lives.

May was a busy month for our Global Chefs! The Nigerian students from Gidan Makama Museum came to visit for the last week of the month, culminating in a community feast for everyone who has been involved with the program over the course of the year.

The Nigerians arrived late Sunday night after spending almost a full 24 hours traveling. We are so grateful that they were willing to make such a long  journey! We met that at the airport and took them to their hotel in Oakland near Phipps. The next day, the Nigerian students and the Global chefs met and walked to lunch at the Chinese buffet restaurant near the hotel. The Nigerians loved the variety of food and everyone had a great time meeting each other for the first time.

On Tuesday, the Nigerians had a full tour of Phipps. They not only were able to spend time among the flowers in our beautiful glass houses, but they were also able to learn about our sustainable building initiatives and walk through the Center for Sustainable Landscapes. Since our landscape is so different from Nigeria’s, the students also went to Frick Park, a local city park to take a walk and experience a deciduous forest. Unfortunately, it rained a little too hard and the students got caught in a thunderstorm! However, they were still able to have an immersive experience in our forested areas.

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On Wednesday, the Nigerians took tours of Giant Eagle and of Whole Foods, two local grocery stores. Both stores provided kind staff who took the students around their stores. At Whole Foods, the Nigerians were provided with lunch and a nutrition tour of the store. In the evening, both the Nigerians and the Global Chefs enjoyed an outdoor picnic at the Phipps Garden Center near Mellon Park. They ate a fun meal on the lawn and then played outdoor games with Phipps staff anf volunteers.

On Thursday, the Nigerian students took a tour of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. They saw dinosaur bones for the first time and marveled at the sheer size of them. They also loved visiting the Polar World exhibit, the Hall of Gems and the Hall of Architecture. They ate lunch at a nearby restaurant specializing in Afghan food, which they really liked. After their time in the museum, the Nigerian students said that they really wanted to do some “American shopping”; in particular, they wanted to visit a Target store. The students had a great time looking at clothes and other items before dinner. That evening, they got together again with the Global Chefs for a guided boat ride on the Gateway Clipper down the Allegheny River. For many students, this was their first time on a boat. Students learned about the history of Pittsburgh and its bridges from the tour guide while snapping pictures and enjoying the ride.

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On Friday, the Nigerians went to the Children’s Museum, which is the home of the other Pittsburgh Museum Connects grant winners. Kimberly Bracken, the coordinator of that program, has been working on a cultural exchange from with students from a museum in Ecuador. Kim met our students and showed them around the gardens at the museum. The Nigerians also had fun screen printing and making art in the museum’s exhibits.

Saturday was feast day! Early in the morning, the Global Chefs came to Phipps to harvest greens and other salad fixings from the Edible Garden. They harvested the seeds that they planted several months ago at one of their workshops; for many of the students, this full circle was exciting to be a part of. The Nigerians arrived after and both groups spent some time having good discussions about their respective food cultures. The Nigerians shared their reflections on their home program and their time spent in America. One thing that both groups mentioned that their favorite part of the program was the time spent planting and harvesting in the garden. The two groups also exchanged gifts; the Nigerians brought lovely leather handmade bags and wallets for the Phipps students and staff and we gave the Nigerians personalized garden trowels to commemorate their visit to our gardens. Before the feast, both groups worked together to create a big, beautiful salad with dressing and took it up to the Special Events Hall where the feast was happening. Friends and helpers from the past year, as well as family members and Phipps staff, all sat down with the students to celebrate their achievements over the past year. It was a wonderful time for everyone!

After the feast, the Nigerians and the Global Chefs all went to see a movie and spend some last time together before the Nigerians left on Sunday. Everyone agrees it was a wonderful visit. We are so happy that we were able to share this great cultural learning experience with students from both museums!

To see more photos from the Nigerian’s visit, check out the slideshow below!

 

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The above photos were taken by Phipps staff and volunteers.

 

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