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Zambian cooking stick has special place in Ireland

Each year, new fellows arrive while others depart but Zambian students have built a tradition over several years that brings continuity alongside the changes.

Zambian student group with cooking stick

Outgoing 2012-13 fellow Sibeso Kahanda (third from right) passes on the cooking stick to incoming fellow Lincoln Himaambo Mungaila, who held it on behalf of the 2013-14 year group from Zambia, also pictured.

Back in 2009, Brother Stephen Phiri came to Ireland with a traditional wooden cooking stick, used in Zambia to make "nshima", a thick porridge served during lunch or dinner. Instead of the stick leaving Ireland with him, it remains to this day, a symbol of continuity passed on each year to a new incoming fellow.  »The Link spoke to some of those who’ve carried forward the tradition...

Lincoln Mungaila, the most recent alumni to pass on the cooking stick, explains: "The purpose for passing it on to the next student is meant to signify our Zambian spirit of living as one family. Every time I used the stick in the kitchen, I could feel more responsible about upholding the Zambian culture and also learning more from others."

Sibeso Kahanda from the 2012-13 group, gives another perspective: "There were times when the pressure of what was required of me in school could be hectic and consequently stress me. In those moments, I doubted my ability to make it through. So having the cooking stick became a symbol of hope and continuity for me. It gave me the impetus to push on because I wanted to be able to hand it over to the next person after completing my course successfully. Also, being able to prepare traditional food in a faraway country helped me feel close to home during those few times when I was homesick,"

George Chileya, from the 2011-12 group,  was one of three Zambian fellows living in Goldsmith Hall at Trinity College Dublin. He says: "In the Zambian sense, if a visitor is not served with nshima, any other meal will not be appreciated. We used the stick always and very much. I felt honoured to have used it. When handing it on it symbolised my graduation and exit from Ireland."

George Chileya cooking ‘nshima’ in Goldsmith Hall at TCD

George Chileya cooking ‘nshima’ in Goldsmith Hall at TCD in 2012 for a meal shared with two other Zambian fellows.