On Thursday, February 23, at 5pm, join us for a special program at Retreat where interdisciplinary performing artist and Mellon Archives Innovation Fellow Yaw Agyeman will sing recipes published in the Ebony Cookbook – a seminal object in the Johnson Publishing Company’s magnum opus.
Embedded in the Johnson Publishing Library, the Ebony Cookbook is an important cultural artifact that enshrined a collection of recipes in the collective conscious of Black modern life in the 50s and 60s. The cookbook provides us intimate encounters with the culinary traditions of African American cuisine, which continue to – in many iterations informed by our own families’ traditions – grace so many of our dinner tables today. The cookbook was first published in 1948 by the editors of Johnson Publishing’s Ebony Magazine, one of the most widely read and influential publications for Black Americans during the mid-twentieth century.
At a time when many African Americans faced limited opportunities and discrimination in mainstream media and society, the Ebony Cookbook offered a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and traditions of Black Americans. The cookbook includes recipes for soul food, a cuisine that emerged from the fusion of West African, European, and Native American cooking techniques and ingredients. These recipes are not only delicious, but also reflect the creativity, resilience, and ingenuity of African Americans who were often forced to make do with limited resources.
About Yaw Agyeman
Yaw Agyeman is an interdisciplinary performing artist born in Chicago. Working primarily as a musician and sound designer, Agyeman additionally has an extensive theater background and photography practice. Agyeman’s work across genres addresses language as cultural currency and utilizes space to share music, community, and culture.
He has toured in the play Red, Black and Green: a blues (MAPP) and performed in the world premiere of the musical, Mister Chickee’s Funny Money (Chicago Children’s Theater). He has been featured on VH1’s Soul Cities as well as on the Africa Channel’s Soundtracks at Red Kiva. He is currently a member of the artistic collaboration Black Monks of Mississippi, headed by Theaster Gates. He has performed at the New Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Art, Haus der Kunst, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Venice Biennale, the Menil Collection, the Birmingham Museum of Art, White Cube, documenta 13, Art Basel Miami, and the Whitney Biennial.