efore the sun had a chance to rise, I heard the soft scratching and scraping of raffia brooms on the tiles of the front porch.
At first, I was not sure what to make of this sound, for it was alien to me. My ears were used to the early morning sounds of London buses dashing by, cars honking at each other, and pupils chattering on their way to school.
So I lay still, and listened to the same rhythmic sweep, interrupting the blissful quiet of the morning and disturbing the peace of the scattered leaves which were now coated with dust from the night before.
While I lay, still sleepy with heavy eyes, the women of Akwa Ibom had been long awake. It is said that they wake just in time for the sun to rise. Perhaps this is the reason why the Ibibio phrase ‘Amesiere’ – the closest synonym for ‘good morning’ – loosely translates to ‘you have risen [like the sun]’, and ‘Asiere’ – the closest synonym for ‘good night’ – loosely translates to ‘may it [or you] rise’. Anyways, I digress. With their wrappers now firmly tied around their breasts, were bent low – humming a tune that was unfamiliar to me, while sweeping the floor in preparation for what was to come.
[…] the Ibibio phrase ‘Amesiere’ – the closest synonym for ‘good morning’ – loosely translates to ‘you have risen [like the sun]’, and ‘Asiere’ – the closest synonym for ‘good night’ – loosely translates to ‘may it [or you] rise’
The Women of Akwa Ibom were preparing the terrain for the preparation and creation of the magical, coveted delicacy: Efere Afang.
By the time I was able to fully wake up and go downstairs to have my tea, wrapped in my own trusted wrapper, the Women of Akwa Ibom had already cut the majority of the lushly scented Afang leaves, spurred on by the accompaniment of lowly sung Ibibio songs.
I started as an onlooker of this scene unfolding on the porch of my second home. I watched the Women of Akwa Ibom who had come to our compound as intently as my former art history teacher would have wanted me to look at a painting by Michelangelo or Carravaggio.
Eventually, I sat down with the Women of Akwa Ibom, continuing to watch their skilled hands move quickly yet precisely. The process of transforming Afang from mere leaves to a soup that is native to the Ibibios but adored by all Nigerians, took hours but the end result was worth the wait.
Efere Afang, is more than just food. It’s preparation is both a science and an art – a process that is native, innovative, and creative. One that is passed down from mother to daughter, and one that though copied can never truly be replicated – at least so I was told.
I’m not sure if it was the taste of the food or if the women who made it were a secret ingredient, but whatever it was, it was magic and it was made by the Women of Akwa Ibom.