Museum passes on Cayman traditions

| 22/05/2010

(CNS): Whether custard-top cornbread, cassava cake or “Nigga Bible”, the National Museum’s traditional arts programme, dubbed “The Exchange,” is a hands-down success, attracting so many participants that thereis a waiting list despite added class sections. Organized by Museum Education Officer Nasaria Chollette, the traditional arts programme has been developed as a means of passing down traditional arts skills and thus preserving important aspects of Cayman’s cultural heritage. The programme commenced in April with a series of cooking classes, but will eventually branch out into other areas such as embroidery and wood carving, says Chollette.

Instructors for classes are local masters of the art, with the custard-top cornbread taught by Mrs. Virginia Suckoo, and cassava heavy cake taught by local singer/song writer KK Alese. Next will be the traditional Nigga Bible cake, on 1 June. The series of classes is being hosted by Rhonda and Isaac Edie of Edie’s Décor at their Savannah Meadows home.

"In my youth the furthest thing from my mind was learning how to bake Caymanian traditional cakes or ‘heavy cakes’ as we know them,” said participant Alta Bodden-Solomon, NCVO youth & community worker, personal assistant to the NCVO’s CEO, and wife of artist Gordon Solomon. “Now a wife and mother of two, I have a desperate need to connect to all things Caymanian and past, including my own.

“I felt that this class was a must for me and, along with my husband Gordon, who hadn’t baked anything (except fish before), I feel a sense of fulfillment. I guess you could say that, as our first custard-top corn bread ‘baked up’, so did my pride in myself, my family and my Caymanian people.”

Commenting on the attention that the series has attracted, Chollette said: “The classes have been full to overflowing, so much so that I have a waiting list for classes, despite having added two sections to each class to accommodate all interests.” Chollette added that she was considering requests for children’s classes.

Speaking about the recent cassava cake class, Chollette said that instructor KK Alese, the well-known local singer/songwriter, expertly passed on the traditional art taught to her by mother Rhonda Edie — and even added a couple of secret ingredients herself.

Secret ingredients or not, participant Summer LaRue commented enthusiastically on the cassava-cake class experience: “I feel that the class was imperative for me (to attend) as I learnt how to gauge the right consistency of the batter for making the cake,” adding: “I don’t think I could have pulled it off on my own the first time! Since the class I have made three cakes! My mother-in-law (who is Caymanian) says mine is better than hers (not so sure about that!). Needless to say, I’m quite popular at work now, too! I look forward to many more classes to come!”

With regard to future classes, Education Officer Chollette says that further cooking and baking classes will shortly be advertised. “We encourage all to check our Facebook page so they can keep up with the class offerings. We anticipate next featuring Biscuit Cake, Duff and Johnny Cake.”

Anyone interested in being listed for classes and receiving information may email Chollette at

In addition, Chollette is inviting persons to serve as hosts of the home-based events. Anyone wishing to host a series of three classes, one per month for three months, should contact Mrs. Chollette as soon as possible.

Hosting the sessions in homes is an important ingredient, said participant Sushella Annon, as it creates that extra warmth: “The whole experience was a great one! The ‘classroom’ environment was very welcoming and I totally enjoyed myself. The final product was way better than I thought, and everyone who sampled it was asking for more!”

Voicing similar sentiments, Bodden-Solomon summed it up: “I’d encourage anyone that has a few hours to join, learn, enjoy and pass it on!"

The June 1 Nigga Bible class is being held at the Edie’s residence. Further details are available on registration.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    "Nigga Bible?" What on earth?