Today’s Doodle celebrates jollof rice, a quintessential West African dish simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers and regional spices. Nigeria-based guest artist Haneefah Adam created the artwork and Senegalese jazz musician, Hervé Samb, created the soundtrack.
On this day each year, rice farmers plant and reap a bountiful harvest, and cooks across West Africa prepare to make fresh jollof. Also known as benachin and thieboudienne, jollof rice is a one-pot meal that originated from the Wolof tribe in the 14th century. The Wolof Empire, ruling parts of modern-day Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania, popularized jollof throughout West Africa.
Although jollof rice was traditionally cooked with fish for dinner, Africans today also enjoy this savory dish for breakfast and lunch, and often substitute fish with chicken, beef or goat.
Each country has added its own spin to the recipe and West Africans engage in humorous banter over who makes the best jollof. These friendly rivalries, known as the “Jollof Wars,” have become an African cultural phenomenon.
Nigerians and Ghanaians are particularly competitive over who makes the best jollof — and for good reason. There are distinct differences between the two cooking styles. For example, Nigerians use long-grain rice that absorbs more spices, while Ghanaians use basmati rice with a more aromatic flavor.
Who ultimately makes the best jollof? No one can say for sure. The only way to find out is to try as many varieties as you can!
Guest Artist Q&A with Haneefah Adam
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Nigeria-based guest artist Haneefah Adam. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached about working on this Doodle?
A: I was very excited. It was a big deal and a wonderful opportunity to have my work on the Google homepage!
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creating a stop motion animation? Is it challenging working with food?
A: Creating stop motion animation with food is challenging because you want to capture food in its best form and most of the time, the form changes. For example, when food dries up, the colour changes (this means, you’d have to work very fast!). Also, the lighting has to be right and consistent throughout the shoot.
I first drew a sketch to plan how the final form should look and then proceeded to roughly animate (just to see how it would turn out before starting the real shoot). Stop motion requires intricacy and is labour-intensive but it is really unique and fascinating.
Q. Is there a message you hope people take away from the Doodle?
A: This is a celebration of culture—not just my culture, but of everyone who recognizes food as a conduit. The diversity of how we approach food is really interesting—like how the preparation of Jollof is different in Nigeria vs. Senegal (they even have different names). This just goes to show the richness and beauty of our collective culture as a continent.
Q. Any other thoughts you'd like to share?
A: Creativity is bottomless. One of the great things about the human race is how much we can create and refresh from a finite number of resources. Jollof is food but, at the same time, is art. Think about the precision of the combinations required to make good jollof. And then think about how a good piece of art comes together.
It’s been a privilege to shine a light on this aspect of my culture with food and I hope to be able to continue to share beautiful stories out of Nigeria.