The role of 'home food' in maintaining identity through social network ties : Sierra Leone migrants in Durban.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of ‘home food’ in the lives of Sierra Leoneans living in Durban who are members of the Sierra Leonean Association. Another aim was to find out if communal sharing of ‘home food’ in social networks assisted migrants in maintaining their home identity. To collect thick descriptive narratives from the twenty six members of the Sierra Leonean Association, this qualitative study used semi-structured, open-ended interview questions, participation observation and focus groups. The preliminary results of this study showed that for this group of migrants, ‘home food’ such as cassava leaves, egusi and okra play a significant role in mentally transporting these migrants vicariously back to their home country. Narratives showed that ‘home food’ acts as an ‘agent’ for maintaining home identity for Sierra Leonean migrants. The atmosphere in which ‘home food’ was eaten was said to have contributed to minimizing their longing for home as through food-related routines migrants brought’ home’ to their current living places. The conclusion can also be drawn that ‘home food’ plays a crucial role in preserving identity for Sierra Leoneans. It is one of the means by which culture can be maintained even when migrants are very far from home.