News Release: Events, Sustainability

Oct. 3,  2011

Celebrating the West African Yam Harvest With Atlanta's Culinary Masters

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The Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory Dining and Sustainability Initiatives celebrate the African yam and the Georgia sweet potato harvest Oct. 4-9 with a series of programs focusing on these nutritious, versatile, and delicious fall foods. 

Part of the special exhibition programming for "Divine Intervention: African Art and Religion," the Yam Festival will highlight the importance of the yam in the ritual and daily life of people in West Africa and its celebration in art and dance. Events will include:

  • Sweet and savory dishes created by African home cooks and some of Atlanta’s most exciting culinary masters including renowned Southern chef and author Scott Peacock, Steven Satterfield of Miller Union, and Billy Allin of Cakes and Ale.
  • A talk titled Those Aren’t Yams, Those Are Sweet Potatoes: Culinary Confusion in the African-Atlantic World by Jessica B. Harris, author of Africa Cooks and High on the Hog.
  • A variety of locally grown sweet potatoes and yams available at the Emory Farmers Market for sale.

The Yam Festival kick-off event is on Tuesday, October 4. Jessica Stephenson, Curator of African Art will deliver a lecture and after her talk, dancers and drummers from Giwayen Mata will perform and lead a yam festival procession to the Emory Farmers Market where farmers will offer locally grown yams and sweet potatoes. The festivities will end on Sunday, October 9.

Today, 94 percent of the world’s yams are grown in the African “yam belt” that includes Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Ivory Coast, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Togo. Across this region, the annual harvest is celebrated with “new yam festivals.” In preparation, leftover yams from the previous year are discarded and all the cookware is cleaned. On the day of the festival, the first new yams are offered to the villages’ important deities and ancestral spirits.


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