From rivalry over the famed West African dish, jollof rice, to now Guinness World Record attempts, the spirited competition between Ghanaians and Nigerians has spurred both nations to strive for excellence in various fields.
Originating from discussions about whose jollof rice reigns supreme, the debate has contributed to global recognition of this culinary delight. The dish is typically made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, chillies, onions, spices, and sometimes other vegetables and/or meat in a single pot, although its ingredients and preparation methods vary across different regions. While UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has settled the longstanding disagreement, favoring Senegal, these friendly arguments have elevated jollof rice beyond a mere food item.
As reported by Business Insider Africa, the dish which is known as “Ceebu jën” in Senegal has become a source of pride and cultural identity, leading to its recognition by UNESCO as an intangible heritage with anticipated positive impacts on Senegal's economy. The women of Saint Louis in Senegal are credited with adding finesse and elegance to the dish, reinforcing Senegal's claim as the true home of jollof rice.
These discussions also showcase the diversity of jollof rice preparations across different countries in the region, emphasizing the richness and variety of West African cuisine. In addition, as highlighted by Nigerian food writer Jiji Majiri Ugboma, the jollof feud actually brings Nigerians and Ghanaians together. “It is a love language between both countries and is similar to the dynamic of siblings teasing each other,” she said.
Moving beyond jollof debates, the focus has now shifted to the Guinness World Records, igniting a surge of enthusiasm for breaking and setting new records. Data from Guinness World Record revealed that since July 2023, there have been a total of 355 applications from individuals in Ghana alone, and a 1,500 applications from Nigerians, indicating a significant surge in record-breaking aspirations. From cooking marathons to singing and painting marathons, these record-breaking achievements not only spotlight the exceptional talents, food, music and heritage in the region but also foster unity within and between their nations.
In March last year, Nigeria's Hilda Effiong Bassey (popularly known as Hilda Baci undertook the challenge of breaking the record for the longest cooking marathon, surpassing the previous record with an impressive time of 93 hours and 11 minutes, as confirmed by Guinness World Records. In her record-breaking attempt, Baci cooked 100 different dishes, mostly Nigerian dishes, over a period of four days. Her remarkable feat not only united Nigerians, providing them with a reason to celebrate but also showcased the nation's rich culinary heritage on a global platform. Baci's achievement was also an inspiration for others on the continent.
Having been inspired by Baci's achievement, in December 2023, Afua Asantewaa Aduonum of Ghana attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the longest singing marathon by an individual. The existing record was held by India's Sunil Waghmare, who sang for 105 hours in 2012. Aduonum, a broadcast journalist and a mother of three, began her singing marathon on December 24, 2023, in Akwaaba village, located in Accra, Ghana. Remarkably, she successfully broke the record on December 28, concluding her marathon after an impressive 126 hours and 52 minutes of continuous singing. The record is currently awaiting official verification.
Aduonum showcased the richness of Ghanaian music by performing songs across popular genres like gospel, highlife, and hiplife. Her groundbreaking attempt resonated widely on social media platforms, especially during the festive season. This achievement not only united Ghanaians across diverse backgrounds but also provided a compelling reason to celebrate and amplify the beauty of Ghanaian music on a global stage.
Around the same time, it was reported that a Nigerian TikToker named Jasmine Sing was also attempting to break the same Guinness World Record.
In January, Nigeria’s Chancellor Ahaghotu, a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, took on a decade-old Guinness World Record for the longest painting marathon. Over four days, Ahaghotu impressively produced 106 pieces depicting a wide array of subjects, including celebrities, food items, plants, animals, and more. After painting sessions lasting 100 hours, Ahaghotu successfully surpassed the previous record of 60 hours, set by Roland Palmaerts from Belgium/Canada in 2013.
Nigerian Art Student, Chancellor Ahaghotu has broken the Guinness World Record for the Longest Painting Marathon at 100 hours.
The previous record of 60 hours lasted for 10 years. He created 106 art works during the painting marathon. pic.twitter.com/s2UnwglbCn
— Africa Facts Zone (@AfricaFactsZone) January 3, 2024
This accomplishment not only highlighted Ahaghotu's artistic prowess but also contributed to the vibrant artistic tapestry on a global scale.
In the same month, Failatu Abdul Razak, a Ghanaian chef, undertook the challenge to set a new world record as the longest individual cook, aiming to surpass the existing record by cooking for 120 hours or more. Her culinary journey began on January 1 in Tamale, the northern region of Ghana, and concluded on January 10, after an impressive 227 hours of continuous cooking. Since New Year's Day, Razak has been preparing different dishes, mostly Ghanaian dishes on live TV. The record is currently awaiting official verification.
Several political figures, celebrities and even the Ghanaian military and Fire Services travelled to the hotel in the northern city of Tamale to show their support and appreciation. Her remarkable feat is a testament to the strength and determination of African women.
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While Razak's Guinness World Record attempt was still in progress, Beauty Obasuyi, a Nigerian chef, announced on her Instagram page that she would also be attempting the same record, starting her cooking on January 10.
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Similar to the “Jollof Wars,” it appears that the two nations are now engaging in a friendly world record competition. Some enthusiasts have already begun comparing whose Guinness World Record holder performed better than the other. With more attempts of this nature from these West African countries still in the pipeline, the anticipation is high for groundbreaking records in the region.
As this healthy competition between Ghanaians and Nigerians continues to drive citizens to achieve greatness in diverse fields, showcasing the dynamic spirit of West Africa, one can only wonder what new remarkable achievements these nations will unlock next.