On Thursday 1, Nigeria celebrates its independence from British colonial rule. Help it turn 49 with a parade-and a taste of ox heart.
Wed Sep 30 2009
Hang with Nigerians
The big parade isn’t until Saturday 3, but you can warm up for the celebration on Friday 2 at 7pm, when adults and kids are invited to Cultural Night at Boys and Girls High School Hall (1700 Fulton St between Lewis and Stuyvesant Aves, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; 718-467-1700). Craig Serani Marsh, a Jamaican reggae musician, will perform, as will the Double “O” Production African dance group. Don’t skip the night’s main attractions: the Miss Independence pageant, featuring an interview about Nigerian current affairs. Attendees are encouraged to wear Nigerian attire.
At 11am on Saturday 3, take it to the streets: Flash your green-and-white Nigerian flags during the massive parade down Second Avenue, where floats and marchers will move from 56th Street to the Consulate General of Nigeria building on 44th Street. Afterward, in Dag Hammarskjld Plaza (47th St between First and Second Aves), you can browse for necklaces, Nigerian T-shirts and zebra statuettes, among other knickknacks. You’ll also have the chance to cheer on live music performances and sample an array of Nigerian snacks, including moinmoin (a steamed bean pudding), agidi (a corn porridge), dodo (fried plantains) and suya (peppery Nigerian shish kebab).
If the parade leaves you wanting more, head to an after-party at C-Pac nightclub (1020 E 48th St at Farragut Rd, East Flatbush, Brooklyn; 718-282-8042), which starts at 10pm. C-Pac specializes in reggae, but tonight you should hear Nigerian hip-hop, as well as other Afropop genres, such as fuji and juju. If you’re just looking for a few postparade drinks, try New Combination Restaurant (568 Utica Ave between Rutland Rd and Winthrop St, Crown Heights, Brooklyn; 718-604-0964), which serves authentic Nigerian beverages such as palm wine (called oguro if it’s standard strength, ogogoro if it’s kicked up a notch). But feel free to stick with cold brew: Beer is Nigeria’s most popular beverage by far; in fact, the country consumes more Guinness than Ireland.
Explore Nigerian food
Nigerian filmmaker Tony Abulu explains that the word soup is written liberally on menus at Nigerian restaurants—even though they’re often referring to the sauce that comes with your meat, typically chicken, beef, fish, goat or, sometimes, various internal organs. Sample the different combinations at Aso Rock Lounge and Restaurant (138-24 Farmers Blvd between 138th Ave and 139th Rd, Jamaica, Queens; 718-525-1588). Try the mixed meat topped with okra and bitterleaf soup (made from an African shrub believed to have healing properties). Egusi soup (a vegetable-based dish flavored with crushed melon seeds) and jollof rice (a reddish concoction with tomatoes, peppers and spices) are also popular. If your taste buds are wimpy, beware: Goat pepper soup is often blazing hot.
Adiat Disu, the Nigerian-born president of Adire Fashion Agency, says her favorite place for authentic eats is Mirage African Restaurant (2143 Cortelyou Rd between Flatbush Ave and 22nd St, Flatbush, Brooklyn; 718-941-4452). Disu recommends efo, a vegetable “soup” (note: It’s a sauce!). Be sure to also try the fufu, a West African staple made from pummeled, boiled plantain. The fish here is good, but culinary adventurers can also feast on ox heart or cow feet.
Shop like Nigerians
Pick up all things Nigerian—cosmetics, CDs by musicians like Fela Kuti, and food products like palm oil and egusi melon seeds—at Odyssey African Market (1124 Fulton St between Claver Pl and Franklin Ave, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; 718-789-7077). The store also carries kola nuts, caffeinated nuggets that were a key ingredient in the original formula for Coca-Cola.
Bbnoir African boutique (2164 Eighth Ave at 117th St, 212-828-5775) in Harlem carries menswear and womenswear by Nigerian designers Allen & Fifth, as well as its own line, which plays with funky screen prints, bold colors and metallics. This year also marks the 11th anniversary for Nigerian designer Moshood’s flagship store in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (698 Fulton St between S Oxford St and S Portland Ave, 718-243-9433), specializing in contemporary African pieces, including dashikis, drawstring pants and buba tops.
Many Nigerians are football fanatics (not the helmets-and-touchdowns type). They root-root-root for their national team, the Super Eagles.
The tiny town of Igbo-Ora in southwest Nigeria has been called “Twin Town” due to the large number of multiple births that occur there.
English is Nigeria’s official language—but hundreds of other languages are spoken throughout the country’s 36 states.