Joking Relations in West Africa ("senankuya")


Something that strikes many Westerners quite early on when living in much of West Africa is the existence of “joking relations” or “joking cousins”. While I was in the Peace Corps in Burkina, most people referred to this with the French term parenté à plaisanterie. In Mali I’ve heard this less; in French people will say cousinage (à plaisanterie). In any case, the name in Manding like Bambara, Jula and Maninka is clear: senankuya (though there are some variable spelling that line up with different local pronunciations) or in N’ko ߛߊ߬ߣߊ߲߬ߞߎ߲߬ߧߊ.

In practical terms, joking relationships are particular bonds between specific groups of people that call for or allow playful behavior of teasing, insults and gags. But how does it work specifically? I think the easiest way to check out episode 10 of Na baro kè where I asked people in the streets of Bobo-Dioulasso, but I’ll list some other resources and posts below for those that want to explore more!

Related Links and Further Reading

  • Joking Relationships” on Cultures of West Africa

  • And here’s a tweet from a Twitter exchange about the episode: