The following article was prepared by Francis Akhalbey for Face 2 Face Africa on 17th December 2021.
The cultural agency of the United Nations, UNESCO, on Thursday, added Haiti’s popular Joumou Soup to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, saying the meal is “so much more than just a dish”, Al Jazeera reported.
Also known as “freedom soup” and giraumon soup, the dish has since time immemorial symbolized the Caribbean nation’s emancipation from slavery. The soup’s ingredients include pumpkin, vegetables, plantains, meat, pasta and spices.
“Intangible cultural heritage has the capacity to unite communities around their unique know-how and traditions, and thus to strengthen social cohesion,” UNESCO director general, Audrey Azoulay, said in a statement.
“This is especially true when communities are hit by disasters or emergencies: intangible cultural heritage has a major role in community resilience and recovery,” Azoulay added.
Though Haitians originally prepared Joumou, they weren’t allowed to eat it as the soup was solely made for slave owners. But after Haiti gained independence from France in 1804, the island nation reportedly claimed ownership of the soup. The dish has since been used to symbolize their emancipation.
“So much more than just a dish, Joumou Soup tells the story of the heroes and heroines of Haitian independence, their struggle for human rights and their hard-won freedom,” Azoulay said.
The announcement comes in the wake of the current insecurity as well as the economic woes and tragedies the island nation has been experiencing. For about half a century, Haiti, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has struggled to overcome the problems of poverty and inequality. And to make matters worse, the country has also been ravaged by multiple deadly earthquakes. Gang-related activities and violence in the island nation have also worsened following the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.
UNESCO said the recognition of Jomou Soup is something to smile about in the wake of all that has been happening in the country.
“Haiti has faced countless challenges, including natural disasters that have dramatically affected the daily lives of the population, and the country’s authorities wished to make an inscription that would help revive national pride while perpetuating a unifying and symbolic know-how,” Azoulay said, per Al Jazeera.
Joumou Soup is also popular in other Caribbean and Latin American countries, and there are several variations, UNESCO states. Giraumon, a pumpkin species that was initially grown by the indigenous Caribbeans, is one of the soup’s main ingredients.
As a ritual, Haitians typically eat the soup during their annual Independence Day celebrations on January 1. It is also usually taken as a breakfast meal on Sundays.