Article by Lucy Spencer (Blogger)

That whole ‘angry black woman’ stereotype…“They didn’t understand why I wasn’t what they expected.”

Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the apartment. I have never been to West Africa, but as I walked towards the open door, following the sound of laughter as it danced down the street, I knew I was about to get a very warm introduction.

It was already busy with people when I arrived. An Argentinian family, an Irish couple, and a student from France, and a Brit were all here for the same reason as me — we had traveled to see Nne-Dinma, the storyteller.

The spacious, sunlit room, was beautifully decorated. Electric, vibrant cloth draped across the ceiling, and wooden masks were nestled in-between the dried grass that was climbing the walls.

At the back of the room, a table was overflo

wing with food; jollof rice, chicken stew and beef suya, each lovingly cooked over the stove for hours. My mouth watered as I piled the feast of aromatic spices high on my plate, and quickly went back for a second helping.

Before I could head for a third portion — because trust me, I would find room! — there was a light jingle of bells. The small crowd quickly settled, making themselves comfortable on the wooden floor.

Dressed with a simple white cloth around her waist, and crimson and jet black beads framing her face, Nne-Dinma had arrived.

Calling on her ancestors to guide her, she took a deep breath and began to weave a melodic journey:

“The son of Umbare was a fisherman, just like his ancestors before him…”

By the end of the night, I was dancing to classic 90s ‘garage’ music and it was snowing outside; I was not in a village in West Africa, I was in a small town in the middle of Switzerland.

People find it very difficult to talk to black people

Ejay Aninye soon discovered that as a British national with Nigerian heritage, she was a bit of a mystery when she arrived in Switzerland just over15 years ago.

“At my workplace, I was the only black person there. People didn’t understand how I could be from Africa and be British; they didn’t understand at lunchtime the kind of food that I was eating,” Ejay said. “They didn’t understand why I wasn’t what they expected.”

Going by the Nigerian name Nne-Dimna, she began storytelling performances as a way to break these cultural prejudice and misconceptions.

“I just want people to ask me, and to not see me as threatening. That whole ‘angry black woman’ stereotype… I want to be done with that,” she said.

“I like to make myself accessible because people find it very difficult to talk to black people.”

 
Props and decorations were old souvenirs bought by Swiss people who had traveled to Africa, owls sang over the loud-speakers, and battery-powered candles lit the room — a bit of imagination and elbow-grease had helped Ejay Aninye recreate an African hut on the shores of Lake Zug.

Switzerland has a serious problem with racism

Despite having a high immigrant population — 25% of residents are foreign nationals — Switzerland has a serious problem with racism.

A national survey run by the federal government, 66% of those surveyed said the country has a current and serious problem with racism. Yet, 57% think that the steps being taken to fight racism are adequate — this means that at least 23% thinks there is a serious problem, but that enough is being done to change it.

The United Nations disagrees. Following a 2017 human rights review, a UN panel urged the country to work harder to fight racism and discrimination against migrants, pointing to the rise of the ‘extreme right’.

But, that is not a new issue: in 2007, the ultra-right political party, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), launched a poster depicting a white sheep kicking a black sheep off the Swiss flag as part of their general election campaign. The same poster was used in a successful 2010 referendum campaign for the automatic deportation of foreign criminals.

You can see it is nothing sinister

Ejay hopes that creating a warm and engaging environment in which audiences feel comfortable to ask her questions about her Nigerian heritage, will help encourage a culture of understanding.

“I thought, if I can let people in on African food and African culture, they can see that there is nothing sinister,” she said

Nne-Dinma — her storytelling alter-ego — Ejay shares stories of courage, hope and bravery that were passed down through her family for generations.

“So far in Switzerland, it has been working, ” she told me. “ They want to know, they want to understand.”

To date, 20 Swiss people have attended one of Ejay’s storytelling events, with requests for permanent locations in Luzern and Bern. Zug’s tourism board is excited too: they have requested 20 posters and 1000 flyers to post around the city.

Will Ejay’s performances help change deep-rooted social issues? I don’t know, but it is a wonderful way to spend an evening in Zug.

Opening Hours

  • Monday
    10am - 10pm
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  • Thursday
    10am - 10pm
  • Friday
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  • Saturday
    9am - 11pm
  • Sunday
    9am - 11pm

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Ejay's Kitchen allows you to taste the love in every bite. The goal of the company to share love through food. Let us know if ou can taste the love and passion we put in there!!!

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Ejay's Kitchen, Walchwil, Zug,
Switzerland






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