Food transcends all barriers, so what better way to educate and connect students from two countries?
This August, Phipps Conservatory will partner with Gidan Makama Museum Kano in Nigeria to link 15 students each from Pittsburgh and Nigeria for a yearlong project that will explore food and culture.
"Especially on an international level when maybe there's a large language barrier or cultural barrier, food is always one of the great connectors because you can make comparisons to what you eat here and what else people eat there, different ingredients that are included in all sorts of recipes and definitely people are always just so interested in types of food around the world," said Jordyn Melino, exhibits coordinator at Phipps.
The two museums will work monthly to trace food from its beginnings at a local farm to when it reaches the table. Students, ages 16 to 18, will grow and harvest food, see how it is used in recipes and hold cooking workshops to create their own recipes. They also will work with family members or other community elders to infuse tradition into their creations.
Each group will collect recipes from their country and put them together in a handmade book that they will mail to the other group at the end of the program. Ms. Melino is interested in seeing the Nigerian recipes and hopes the Nigerian students will get a sense of the United States' melting-pot culture.
"We get a lot of students that are all different nationalities... so we'd like to see traditional recipes in their families' homes or recipes that they're familiar with," she said. "These will all be translated to the team in Nigeria so they'll see, 'OK, the U.S. has all of these recipes from all of these different cultures.' "
The students will touch base every month through videos, photographs and emails until next spring, when the Nigerian students will come to Pittsburgh for a visit.
The Pittsburgh museum is recruiting students for the project and reaching out to community organizations that share the goal of healthy food and cooking. Ms. Melino said they are hoping to include the results of the project in the museum's upcoming tropical-forest exhibit focusing on a region in Africa.
The project is made possible through the Museums Connect grant, an initiative of the American Alliance of Museums and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.
In its sixth year, Museums Connect has partnered American museums in 23 states with museums in more than 40 countries including Senegal, Denmark, Peru and Hong Kong to bring people together on diverse projects of their choosing. This year 11 projects were awarded the grant.
"We are thrilled to receive this generous grant from Museums Connect and have the opportunity not only to explore critical connections between the foods we eat and personal health and wellbeing, but also to build a bridge between two seemingly different worlds to show, through cultural culinary comparisons, how we are all connected on a very basic level," said Phipp's executive director, Richard V. Piacentini, in a press release.
Kitoko Chargois: email@example.com or 412-263-1088.