“Eating with Africa” is photographer Maria Schiffer’s journey across Africa, discovering the continent through the universal language of food. In roughly one year she is traveling 10 countries to collect 50 stories and 50 recipes, which, alongside her photographs, will culminate in the cookbook “Eating with Africa,” intended for publication in 2019.
Maria Schiffer chose food as the theme of her project to explain a complex and diverse continent through stories told in its kitchens – the heart of so many homes. After all, so much of life revolves around food.
At each destination, she meets regular people who invite her into their homes and cook with her. They show her how they live and eat and she leaves with a personal story and a recipe. For this, a fair exchange is discussed or a negotiated adequate remuneration for sharing is paid. Often, Maria is accompanied by local translators and guides to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
This project is about the people, and about letting the locals speak for themselves and for their countries. Maria’s part is that of a narrator, chronicling her encounters as objectively as possible. “Eating with Africa” is not for charity, it’s about building bridges to a continent with 54 countries that is often times portrayed one-sidedly in western media.
This won’t be a cookbook indulging in specifications and measurements, but a celebration of authentic cooking. You will see how simple life can be if you follow your instincts
Traveling alone, with no more than a rough plan, and going with the flow, Maria’s journeys are defined by a tight budget, sleeping in simple guesthouses, planning from day to day, and traveling like the locals. Most of the time she is the only foreigner amongst them. Often, this way of traveling leads her to magical places that she would have never found, had everything been planned and had she been traveling the “safer” more western way. She started the project on her own initiative, spending every last cent she earned. The last stretch of the journey has been supported by private sponsors inspired by what she is doing. Every single one of these people has become a part of this story, making possible what seemed impossible at first – Maria Schiffer is grateful and moved by their support and trust!
Part of the project is also about how Maria personally experiences the continent as a woman traveling alone. She has chosen to share this by letting others in on the making-of process of the cookbook, through her travel-list, notes, and videos and through social media. In doing so, she is hoping to inspire people to venture out further.
After having visited eight African countries in recent years, Maria Schiffer realized how little she had known and how little many people in the West still know of Africa. In December 2017 she had the idea how she could do her part to change that, by eating with Africa. The project’s name was purposefully chosen to underline that not everyone in Africa is starving. There is food and people eat.
So far, Maria has visited Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa, São Tomé and Principe and Uganda for the project.
Prior to “Eating with Africa”, Maria traveled through Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, and Senegal. As of now, the next destinations for the completion of the book will be Madagascar, Zambia, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.
Maria Schiffer, born in 1980, is an American-German travel and food photographer based in Berlin. Her photographs combine authenticity with a touch of humor. In between her travels to Africa she is back in Berlin, working mostly as an editorial photographer. Her clients include renowned German travel, lifestyle and food magazines: www.mariaschiffer.com.
“It always seems impossible until it is done” Nelson Mandela