Meet Haneefah & Hervé, The Creatives Behind Google’s Jollof Rice Doodle

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In our new series, #TANTVSpotlight-we showcase creatives shaping up the continent and the diaspora. This week’s spotlight features Nigeria-based Haneefah Adam, the visual artist behind the viral Google Doodle’s quintessential West African dish, Jollof rice and Senegalese jazz musician Hervé Samb, who created the soundtrack.

The November 4th Doodle celebrates jollof rice, a quintessential West African dish simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers and regional spices. On this day each year, rice farmers plant and reap a bountiful harvest, and cooks across West Africa prepare to make fresh jollof. Also known as benachin and thieboudienne, jollof rice is a one-pot meal that originated from the Wolof tribe in the 14th century. The Wolof Empire, ruling parts of modern-day Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania, popularized jollof throughout West Africa.  

Although jollof rice was traditionally cooked with fish for dinner, Africans today also enjoy this savory dish for breakfast and lunch, and often substitute fish with chicken, beef or goat.

Each country has added its own spin to the recipe and West Africans engage in humorous banter over who makes the best jollof. These friendly rivalries, known as the “Jollof Wars,” have become an African cultural phenomenon. 

Nigerians and Ghanaians are particularly competitive over who makes the best jollof — and for good reason. There are distinct differences between the two cooking styles. For example, Nigerians use long-grain rice that absorbs more spices, while Ghanaians use basmati rice with a more aromatic flavor. 

Who ultimately makes the best jollof? No one can say for sure. The only way to find out is to try as many varieties as you can! 

The Doodle was illustrated by Nigeria-based guest artist Haneefah Adam. She is a self taught multidisciplinary artist with an MSc from Coventry University. Her work typically explores issues related to identity, culture and representation in society, with her personal experiences and observations serving as a focal point. Haneefah is known for contemporary working with an eclectic select of media, ranging from painting, to photography, experimental digital and food art. Her work has received significant coverage from a number of international publications including CNN, BBC and New York Times. Haneefah currently lives and works in Nigeria.

In an interview, she describes her excitement about being approached by Google for the project. “It was a big deal and a wonderful opportunity to have my work on the Google homepage!”, she says. 

In describing the challenge she had in creating stop motion animation with food, she says it is in the difficulty capturing food in its best form and most of the time, the form changes. For example, she says, when food dries up, the colour changes (this means, you’d have to work very fast!). Also, the lighting has to be right and consistent throughout the shoot. 

I first drew a sketch to plan how the final form should look and then proceeded to roughly animate (just to see how it would turn out before starting the real shoot). Stop motion requires intricacy and is labour-intensive but it is really unique and fascinating.

The message she hopes people take away from the Doodle is that this is a celebration of culture—not just my culture, she says, but of everyone who recognizes food as a conduit. The diversity of how we  approach food is really interesting she says. Such as how the preparation of Jollof is different in Nigeria vs. Senegal (they even have different names). This just goes to show the richness and beauty of our collective culture as a continent.

Hervé Samb created the soundtrack. He is a Virtuoso guitarist, original composer, and arranger, respected producer. He has established himself as an outstanding musician worldwide, with many famous artists such as Marcus Miller, Oumou Sangaré, Salif Keïta, and so many others. His four previous albums as a leader have all been acclaimed by the public and international critics : CROSS OVER (2009), KHARIT (2012), TIME TO FEEL (2013) TERANGA (2018) through which he confirms a unique style, the «Jazz Sabar» born from the rhythms of the sabar this traditional Senegalese percussion, crossing original melodies inspired by both traditional Senegalese tunes and contemporary jazz and BENN (2021) his first solo opus.

The guitarist made this statement on his social media: 

Today’s Google doodle celebrates jollof rice. I’m very proud to compose the soundtrack of this beautiful doodle. Go now to Google! Be careful, you might be hungry

TANTV is proud to recognize these two brilliant artists for their works! It is important to note that African creatives are indeed making waves and it is high time they get recognized for their greatness! Follow them on instagram @hervesamb and @muslimahanie.

Follow TANTV on Instagram @tantvstudios

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