Originally from Senegal, Mawa fulfilled her dream of opening her own kitchen in January of 2005. She explains,
“I came to the US at the end of the 80s, and went to NYU. Before arriving here, I went to the University of Senegal for accounting. When I got here, I lived in New York for school and then I got married. I stayed and had kids who are now at universities here… so it’s been a while since I’ve been here.”
But just how did her venture get started?
“To start with, we found African products to import because when I first got here, I realized that there weren’t enough African food products. Every time I went to the supermarket, I would ask: why is there spaghetti sauce and not African sauces? So I took classes that I needed about getting started, and just began. My husband was the person who convinced me to start an African restaurant because there weren’t any here at that time.”
In regards to the cultural differences she experienced in the US as native francophone speaker, Mawa adds:
“First, Senegal is different in terms of religious background – I was born in a country where 15% is Muslim. I went, however, to catholic schools my whole life, so it is pretty normal for me here. Another aspect that is different is the « right of elders », the rights you have when you are older. That is to say that if for example, I am older than you, I have more right to do something. I don’t have to be your mother or your sister. If I were older, you would consequently have to respect me. So I was born in that kind of spirit. Sometimes I tell my sons – He is older than you and they tell me « so what? ». My sons can’t really understand. They were born here and are used to life here. There are things I am used to now, and things that I am not. But like my husband says, there isn’t real or fake culture. There isn’t bad or fake culture, there are just differences, and we respect those domains.”