Photo Credit: Courtesy of Netflix © 2021
Netflix’s High On The Hog Highlights Benin’s Impact On America And The Diaspora
When many Black Americans begin the conversation of the ancestors being taken from Africa, and over to the Americas, Ghana is often at the forefront. But, Benin is not to be forgotten. Netflix’s new docuseries, ‘High On The Hog,‘ starts off in the country, to highlight its impact on Black food traditions— past and present— while also connecting viewers to a very important piece of many Americans’ history.
Series host Stephen Satterfield is taken on a sort of “awakening” with highly esteemed food historian, Dr. Jessica B. Harris. The duo visits several of Benin’s most popular markets, stopping along the way to chat with the country’s best chefs, too. But, the most memorable part was their stop at the ‘Door of No Return’ in Ouidah, Benin.
“It’s something that is going to come through for not just every Black person, but every person that feels an ancestral longing or disconnection,” Satterfield told Travel Noire. “Going to memorials to remember those ancestors who’ve come before us and made our lives and its privileges possible.”
Dr. Harris and Satterfield end the first episode, paying homage to those who made it to their next destinations, and those who didn’t. Satterfield stands barefoot over what is said to be a sacred ground and a mass grave of enslaved Benin people who never made it onto the boats. He is overcome with emotion as he reflects on what exactly took place under his feet.
According to MoyoAfrica, over the course of two centuries, more than one million enslaved Africans were taken from the town of Ouidah on the coast of Benin. They were marched in chains from the town’s slave market to the nearby port, where they would board ships to unknown destinations, the majority of them never to return. For most, the beach at Ouidah was the last sight of Africa they would ever see.
Today the grounds are marked with a memorial known as La Porte du Non-Retour aka The Door of No Return.
“It’s really hard to be in the presence of our ancestors and the presence of that history, without it taking over,” he said. “Dr. Harris has been going there since the 70s, and she really held me down in that moment. She’s a bit more steeled than I am, and it was so special to be there with an elder that I so love and admire.”
Other highlights from the episode show how culinary staples like yams, okra, and cassava made their way to the United States from Benin. Dr. Harris and Satterfield sit down to feast on traditional meals, while Satterfield makes the connection of the dishes he’s eating there to ones he eats in his everyday life.
High on the Hog is a 4-part series, and is not to be missed. You can catch it now on Netflix.