New Orleans is by far one of my favorite cities. I truly consider it the heartbeat of America. From the food to the music, to the people, it’s so culturally rich that you can’t help being enveloped by it when you touch down in the Bayou. While at Essence Festival 2018, I had the pleasure of visiting two Black, women-owned establishments that focus on art.
The first was the Stella Jones Gallery, located at 201 St. Charles Avenue. The gallery defines itself as “the place in New Orleans for Black art.”
Stella Jones and her husband, Harry Jones (now deceased), started the gallery in 1996 and got it together in about three weeks. The gallery currently represents a plethora of Black artists across the diaspora and has art that is focused on the Black experience.
The gallery in conjunction with Soul of New Orleans (a tour experience focused on the exposure of Black businesses and history of NOLA) hosted a luncheon where attendees were able to experience the food of New Orleans, by Chef Serigne Love.
The 24-year-old Chef educated the audience on New Orleans food and the West African history.
He made jambalaya, a New Orleans dish with West African foundations. When New Orleans was being colonized, the Europeans didn’t bring women with them. The slave women ended up cooking and you can see the African influences in many popular New Orleans dishes today. He made the jambalaya without a rue, as rue is a French influence, and used authentic Senegalese spices flown in just for the occasion.
He also made poached redfish. He explained that similar to West Africa, he went to the Farmer’s Market and bought whatever vegetables were in season.
The meal had crispy sweet potatoes and a tamarind jus. All the flavors melded together perfectly.
Chef Love finished with a dessert he created, utilizing millet, called Lakh pudding. He affectionately told the crowd, “I’ve been perfecting this dessert just for you.” Yum!
The art was phenomenal, featuring both historic and modern pieces that are influenced by everything from slavery to even Colin Kaepernick taking a knee.
The current exhibit on display is entitled, Tied To Love, and is the work of Master Quilter Phyllis Stephens. The exhibition holds a special place for the Stella Jones Gallery as it drew its inspiration from Harry Jones, the stylish, late co-owner of the gallery who was known for wearing bowties. Stephens has repurposed Jones’ bowties as well as others under the broad theme of Love. It’s on display through July 31st, 2018.