UNESCO names Senegal as true home of Jollof rice in Africa over Ghana and Nigeria

The long and brutal Jollof Rice Wars – the clashes on social media, mass media and in person across the world and different West African countries – have come to an end.

The UN’s educational and cultural organization, UNESCO, has officially recognised Senegal as the origin of Jollof rice, also known as Ceebu jën in Senegal, settling a long-standing debate between West African nations Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

The dish, which is a staple in West African cuisine, is made of rice and fish, accompanied by vegetables and sometimes tomatoes.

For long, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana have battled over who makes the best Jollof rice, in a bid to claim the Jollof rice throne. The word jollof refers to an ancient kingdom that was a part of Senegal between the 12th and the 13th centuries.

According to research by The Conversation Africa, the origins of Jollof rice can be traced back to the entrenchment of colonial rule in West Africa between 1860 and 1940. During this period, French colonizers replaced food crops with broken rice imported from Indochina. Over time, broken rice became more prized by the Senegalese than whole rice grain and the dish known as Ceebu jën was born.

The dish has become a source of pride and cultural identity for the Senegalese. The women of Saint Louis, a port city in northern Senegal, are known for their remarkable know-how in this area and have been credited with adding finesse and elegance to the dish.

Jollof rice is also closely linked to a particular way of life and the consumption of the dish is strongly linked to ceremonial events and the aesthetics of presentation and service.

At the end of 2021 UNESCO included the Senegalese version of jollof rice on the intangible heritage of humanity list, as recognition of the know-how of the Senegalese of an integral part of an intangible heritage.

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