By Ernest Ndayisaba

Afrotaste, the Lewiston-based restaurant and bar that has served as a community hub, hosted its first Nigeria Night on April 13. Patience Success Juwah, who was chef for the event, explained the motivation for Nigeria Night: “We wanted to bring Africans together so we could taste food from all the tribes, listen to Nigerian music, and of course, meet beautiful people. So today we are going to be eating the ecosystem!” 

The majority of ingredients for the meal were imported directly from Nigeria, although a few stores in Maine carry some Nigerian products. Juwah said, “We are hoping that soon we’ll have many Nigerian stores (in Maine) where we can easily get these things, instead of having to order them from Nigeria.” 

Nigerian food is internationally renowned, with certain dishes claimed by multiple nations in West Africa, such as jollof rice, which probably originated in Senegal. “Everybody has similar rice dishes, and different things that they do (with the ingredients), mainly, the way they cook,” Juwah said. 

Currently, approximately 300 Nigerian-born Mainers are part of a loose community association that is several years old. Two years ago they held their first gatherings, one in Portland, and another in Augusta, both of which were covered in Amjambo.  

English is the official language of Nigeria, but there are 525 total languages spoken by different tribes. Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba are the three largest tribes, and each has a distinct language. Over 60 million people speak Nigerian Pidgin. 

Who speaks pidgin English? 

This is one of the most widely spoken pidgins in the world, though it is not an official language anywhere. It has many local varieties and influences from other languages in Asia, Oceania, and West Africa, where it originated as a language of commerce during the transatlantic trade of enslaved people. Pidgin English has some differences from country to country, but they are usually mutually intelligible. The BBC has expanded its service to include pidgin, widely spoken in West Africa but not officially recognized.  

What is a pidgin? 

Pidgins are simplified, mixed languages that emerge when two or more groups of people need to communicate but don’t share a common language. Each variety of pidgin uses vocabulary from both languages and simplified grammar from one of them. Influenced by the speakers’ languages and cultures, pidgins may change over time.  

How many pidgins are there? 

Numerous pidgins are spoken around the world, based on different primary and additional languages. For example, English-, French-, Portuguese-, and Chinese-based pidgins combine these languages with the additional language (or languages) in which their speakers need to communicate. 

Recently, Afrotaste posted on social media that the business is closing temporarily, with hopes to reopen in a new location in summer 2024.