Level: nursery school, primary school, secondary school
‘i gere bore mu i sanakhure’: the joking kinsman is not an opponent
This article was based on the activity report entitled Prevention, resolution of conflicts and education for citizenship in Africa, initial phase, May-December 1999 and describes a project run by the Enda-Tiers Monde association financed by UNESCO. Through its co-ordination and communication team COORCOM, Enda is committed to research and action aimed at disseminating the huge advantages and hidden meaning of ‘joking kinship’, thus contributing to the building of sustainable peace based on local cultures. Raphaël Ndiaye is the co-ordinator of the Enda-Coorcom project and his account is taken from the Sub-regional workshop: Joking kinship, citizenship and culture of peace, Dakar, Cercle de l’Union, 24-27 January 2000.
Peace is built with men and women in an appropriate context, by consensus and by desire. Each individual, each society is in search of peace and, to this end, establishes mechanisms, which make it possible to create friendly relations, solidarity, tolerance and acceptance of differences with regard to others. Among these mechanisms there is joking kinship. It is a genuine network, which allows people to establish chains of patronymic equivalence across the vast territories of West Africa by basing national and regional citizenship on friendly relations. Joking kinship forms a set of privileged and permanent connections, the crux of which is ‘a relationship free from all bitterness and therefore made of gentleness’, which operates on the basis of humour and polite derision.
Joking kinship can be applied to almost all the structures in society: the family, age groups, those bound by marriage, alternate generations, neighbouring villages, neighbouring territories and neighbouring ethnic groups.
The Dakar sub-regional workshop, held in January 2000, made it possible to pool the results of research carried out in Guinea and Mali as since the reign of Soundiata Keita, which started in 1235, the joking kinship practice has continued to play a role in social regulation by easing crises and conflicts.
Raphaël Ndiaye: In 1987 in a village in Djoliba, south west of Bamako on the banks of the Niger I met an old Malian who was no doubt a Bamanan and having greeted him I enquired after his patronym. He was a Diarra and I knew that this is the equivalent of Ndiaye. So I struck up a conversation about the connection between patronyms. He was glad to oblige and as he dictated I took notes asking him to specify where possible the ethnic entities from which the names came:
Diarra (Bamanan) was equivalent among other names to Ndiaye (Sereer, or Soninke, Toucouleur and Wolof) or to Koné (Malinke); as well as Sissoko (Bamanan) = Bagayogo = Doumbia = Sinayogo.
As a result, I could become Diarra with Bamanan people and Koné with the Malinké without losing the name Ndiaye.
I became aware that I could travel in West Africa from the northern banks of the Senegal River in Mauritania as far as Guinea or Burkina Faso by changing patronyms and that a Diop could do the same, as Diops are joked about by Ndiayes.
Although I was derided as ‘a lazy coward....’ as a good Ndiaye is supposed to be in the eyes of those who make fun of us, I was always welcomed as a distinguished guest. West Africa became my homeland with guaranteed immunity, adding human rights, the delights of humour and the warmth of hospitality to this fundamental fact.
This is how I discovered the similarities and connections between patronyms on one hand and what we call ‘fun-poking’ relationships, or ‘cousins in jest’. This is how the idea of a research project into the strong, popular and living traditions in our regions came about.
These traditions are still alive and are part of greeting rituals.
When greeting people you give your patronymic which often makes it possible to identify the other ethnically and socially, and if one knows the codes of equivalence and connections between patronymics as well as the joking relationships, these systems can be used automatically. Greeting is thus the first ‘acknowledgement of others.’
As they form a genuine web, joking kinship, the equivalence between patronymics and the ethnic-patronymic connections can make an appreciable contribution to the emergence of a West-African citizenship. In Africa, joking kinship is a widespread social reality. The hospitality and friendliness of the Malian people, for example, are legendary.
In Mali, the research carried out in the framework of the ‘ Prevention, conflict resolution and education for citizenship’ project dealt with three ethnic entities, namely the Peuls, the Dogon and the Minianka.
Joking kinship is characterised by mutual trust. In fact one of the functions of joking kinship in traditional societies within which surveys were carried out is to criticise one’s partner with humour by telling him exactly what one thinks of him in the conflicts that arise.
The joking kinship application scales can be divided into three sorts:
social scales (matrimonial ties)
territorial scales (villages, ethnic groups).
The parties involved in this system are obliged to respect certain relations hospitality, mutual aid, loyalty, a refusal to hurt each other and mutual recognition. By doing this, joking kinship makes it possible to defuse aggressiveness by means of a catharsis conveyed through humour and polite derision.
Furthermore, thanks to the system of similarities cross-border patronymic chains can be established, forming a transversal system which interrelates and integrates ethnic entities and relativizes the impression of fragmentation deriving from ethnic pluralism. The system is known and practised by people, sometimes when moving to a new area, who adopt the patronymic that corresponds to their own or find it is given to them.
Kinship plays an important part in the prevention of conflicts. The Peuls for example have established joking kinship relations with all the peoples they meet in a strategy geared to gaining access to water and pasture for their cattle.
The scene takes place on a coach. Two passengers, a Peul and a Séreer, seated side by side are on the verge of fighting. But suddenly the tension drops in intensity. And as if by magic the two protagonists start laughing. They have just discovered through a fellow passenger that they are joking kinsmen.
Joking kinship at school
The work of the Enda association aims to popularise joking kinship by making it known to those who are not familiar with it and helping those with limited knowledge of it to master it. In both cases, the purpose is to encourage as broad a population as possible to implement it in day to day life at school. As the pupils are young and not yet deeply rooted from a cultural point of view, they are a prime ‘target’ in this approach.
In countries where this is possible, the opportunities offered by decentralisation may be used to invite local state education authorities - such as the various academies - and local communities to include joking kinship in the 25% of the curriculum which they have to define.
Pupils may be asked a series of questions with a view to identifying:
- Joking kinsmen according to the pupil’s name
- His/her joking kinsman depending on the ethnic entity
- His/her joking kinsmen depending on the home village
- His/her joking kinsmen depending on the region
- His/her joking kinsmen depending on the mother’s lineage.
The pupil can be asked which patronymics correspond to his (eg. Ndiaye = Diarra = Condé, etc.). This would allow one to broaden the basis of joking kinship among patronymic chains.
To enhance the idea of mutual aid, one can have a series of questions about what one may not do to a joking kinsman, and if there is a breach of this, the risks one can run.
Regarding the use of humour and derision, they can be asked to give examples of how one ’teases’ a joking kinsman. What does one call him? How does one welcome him?
Next, there may be a series of questions to do with socio-historical experiences, explaining how, thanks to joking kinship, a light-hearted situation was created thus preventing or resolving conflicts. Similarly, the pupils may be asked to relate stories , (myths and tales) and proverbs on joking kinship.
Finally, in order to answer these questions the pupils are obliged to speak to each other, with their parents and grandparents. This dialogue, which is desirable, can allow these adults and elderly people to play an important educational role again while reviving this traditional dimension.
As “one never gets over one’s childhood”, as is often maintained, the aim here is to integrate our traditional values of friendliness, tolerance and solidarity, etc. from childhood. Thus we should target basic education so that these different values are included in the curricula. We shall endeavour to add joking kinship to the curriculum as a means to promote and convey a culture of peace and trans-border citizenship.
For the teachers
Teachers’ handbooks will include the following themes : how it works, the ideal situation, customs, patronymic or ethno-patronymic networks, concepts of joking kinship with examples for illustration.
Training teachers and workshop leaders in joking kinship will be done in two stages:
First stage : political and academic authorities should be informed and made aware as well as parents’ and teachers’ associations so as to gain acceptance for the approach.
Second stage : collecting and developing tools in collaboration with pedagogical institutes and local resource people. These tools will comprise :
handbooks for teachers
manuals for pupils (bearing in mind the two levels of basic education)
supplementary material to inform, edify, illustrate (book of proverbs, sayings, tales and maxims on the subject of joking kinship).
For the pupils
The pupils’ manuals will include the following themes : tolerance, friendliness, solidarity, each of which will be developed according to sub-themes.
Suggested activity sheet on a theme
The group chooses the theme friendliness
The sub-theme chosen is humour (expression of humour)
Class chosen : primary school, 8-9 year-olds
Duration of lesson : 45 minutes
Objective : by the end of the lesson the pupil must be able to establish a friendly relationship by means of humour.
The pedagogical approach shall be interactive, using role-play to illustrate the points e.g; accident between two vehicles whose drivers are joking kinsmen
Illustration through examples from local tradition
Teacher’s intervention describing the principle of friendliness and the way in which humour helps put it into practice
Each pupil identifies at least one joking kinsman
Evaluation : ask 2 or 3 questions to see if the objective has been achieved
Summing up to retain the lesson, the result.
Teaching aid for pre-school children : The picture box
The objective is to enable children to discover joking kinship through the grandparent/grandchild relationship; it is a lesson in language about the family using the following approach :
First make a motivating presentation.
Then stimulate observation using the pictures in a question/answer manner, for role play and short summaries.
Then move on to a conceptualisation, a formulation of the objective. Finally, evaluate this and attempt to apply it to daily life.
It is important to integrate joking kinship in all forms of education : elementary, primary, secondary and higher and present joking kinship not as an extra subject to be included but rather as a new mindset and a more relevant approach to civic education.
To this end:
Identify the problems civic education must address so that it may become a framework for teaching joking kinship;
Involve workshop leaders, pedagogues, journalists and parents and have them work together;
Use school or rural radio networks, museums etc. as channels of intervention to reach populations.
* Sub-regional workshop: Joking kinship, citizenship and culture of peace, Dakar, Cercle de L’Union, 24-27 January 2000, Raphaël NDIAYE.
For further information contact:
54, rue Carnot
BP 3370 Dakar
Tel: 221 822 98 90
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