28 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Embracing Cross-Cultural Perspectives


I am glad we still have one film festival in Zimbabwe - the International Images Film Festival focusing on women.

This year the theme is Women Alive and on Thursday IIFF hosted a pre festival screening of The Education of Auma Obama - a portrait of the sitting US President's older Kenyan sister.

Many of us remember the jubilant images from the Obama Kenyan home in 2008 when Barrack Obama was elected for his first term: the family posing at their homestead with a life size cardboard cutout of their American son singing 'we are going to the White House.' This film is the story of a remarkable woman firmly grounded in her own strength and culture as well as being completely at home as a public intellectual sparring with German academics. The film allows us to experience very different perspectives as director Nigerian Branwen Okpako takes us on a journey though a landscape of memory with Auma.

Auma Obama and Okpako were present at the screening made all the sweeter by the fact that this was a reunion of four film students including IIFF founder, local writer and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and her husband Olaf Koshke who all met at film school in Berlin in the 90s.

I am still bewailing the lack of a decent cinema in Harare. ZGS hosted the Auma film and the compelling story and the occasion itself made up for my cricked neck trying to get a good view of the screen in the makeshift cinema space. Alliance Francaise may well be the most comfortable screening venue now with upgraded sound system, larger screen and tiered seating system. Although Rainbow cinemas in Robert Mugabe Road is one of the festival venues, many people have sworn off downtown and those particular cinemas have a reputation for sleaze and dirt. Anyone with a different experience please correct me!

Thursday was also Thanksgiving Day - an annual holiday in the United States since 1863 - that combines ancient harvest festivals with Puritan traditions of prayer and feasting. Not everyone sees this holiday as a cause for celebration. Each year since 1970, a group of Native Americans and their supporters have staged a protest for a National Day of Mourning at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts on Thanksgiving Day. There is almost always another story for any historical event.

In the spirit of embracing different perspectives I decided to cook a cross-cultural African pumpkin pie. A traditional thanksgiving food, pumpkin pie adapts itself very well to Africa with our huge variety of pumpkins and squash. For the pastry use your favourite shortcrust recipe or mix 1 cup of flour with 100g butter and add enough water or milk to make a smooth dough. I added grated coconut to the pastry and roasted the pumpkin (you need about 500g cooked) in coconut oil from Mozambique to add a tropical flavour. Bake the pie crust for 10 minutes and allow to cool before adding the filling. Roasting rather than steaming or boiling the pumpkin caramelizes it and gives a denser taste. Puree the pumpkin in a blender with spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, 1 cup of dark brown sugar, 3 eggs and ½ cup of cream. Pour this mixture into the pie shell and bake at a medium heat until set. (about 40 mins). Pumpkin pie is best served chilled with extra cream.

Enjoy as a dessert or tea time treat. And enjoy what's left of the festival too. IIFF runs until 1st December in Harare with screenings at Alliance Francaise, Book Café and Rainbow Robert Mugabe and from 3rd to 6th December in Bulawayo at Makokoba Hall.

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