BBC – Travel – Teraanga: The word that specifies Senegal

As I waited to board a flight to Dakar from New York City, a lady curtained in vibrant material and a brilliant headwrap asked if she might utilize my smart phone. Being reluctant with a perplexed smile, I questioned the odd familiarity to ask that of a complete stranger. While I fluctuated, a likewise dressed visitor provided her phone to the lady without a reservation. Experiences like this continued throughout my journey to Senegal, and I rapidly understood that they weren’t vibrant demands from complete strangers. They were my intro to teraanga

Senegal is called the “Land of Teraanga”. Travel guides frequently specify this Wolof word (likewise composed as “teranga”) as implying hospitality, however that’s “a loose method of equating it,” stated Pierre Thiam, the Senegalese chef and co-founder of Teranga dining establishment in New york city City. “It’s actually a lot more complicated than that. It’s a lifestyle.”

As a visitor, I rapidly saw that this worth penetrates lots of elements of every day life in Senegal. Teraanga stresses kindness of spirit and sharing of product belongings in all encounters– even with complete strangers. This constructs a culture in which there is no “other”. By being so providing to all, no matter citizenship, faith or class, a sensation grows that everybody is safe and welcome.

By being so providing to all, no matter citizenship, faith or class, a sensation grows that everybody is safe and welcome

Throughout the summertime I invested offering at an instructional centre in Yoff, a dry and dirty 90,000-person beachside neighborhood north of downtown Dakar, teraanga assisted me discover and welcome Senegalese culture. I was welcomed to stick with a regional household and accepted day-to-day deals to check out neighbours’ houses and consume tea. As I immersed myself in this Senegalese method of being, my Western walls disappeared. Openness, kindness, heat and familiarity– the essential parts of teraanga– took their location. I continuously seemed like the 16-million-person household of Senegal was inviting me house.

Throughout lunch at work, 7 people would rest on the flooring around a substantial common plate covered in rice, fresh fish and veggies. Understanding I was vegetarian, my Senegalese lunchmates would press veggies my method, and I ‘d move fish theirs. When we went on journeys to the beach, kids who hardly understood me would delve into my arms to get away the unforeseeable waves. I was stunned by their ease with me, till I bore in mind that they were raised to think that neighborhood members– even relative complete strangers– will constantly raise each other up.

Four-year-olds strolled house alone from the centre where I worked, and no-one concerned. I frequently saw grownups putting in the time to inform and direct area kids, much as a moms and dad would. According to Dr Ibra Sene, a Senegalese historian who teaches at The College of Wooster in the United States state of Ohio, this becomes part of teraanga, where, “you would want to take a look at individuals and counsel them as the members of your own household.”

Its origins stay something of a secret

Regardless of how common teraanga remains in Senegal today, its origins stay something of a secret. However historians concur that it has actually been an important part of the area’s culture for centuries, existing long prior to the 300 years of Dutch, British and French colonial guideline that lasted from 1659 to 1960.

” That frame of mind of interaction, exchange and openness to the other might most likely be traced back to the time of the huge empires of West Africa,” Sene stated, describing the terrific Mali, Ghana and Songhai Empires that as soon as thrived in the area. Sene discussed that for more than 1,000 years this area based its economy on trade, which the exchange of products and concepts on which these empires were constructed thrived due to the fact that of this spirit of kindness and openness. “Even if it [was] not called teraanga, you see it in various shapes and types throughout the history of West Africa.”

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Though an early type of teraanga most likely existed throughout West Africa, some think that the modern-day idea came from the north-western Senegalese city of Saint-Louis (Ndar, in Wolof). Scholars, nevertheless, state there’s no basis for this assertion, though they do have theories on where this concept might have originated from.

A Unesco World Heritage site, Saint-Louis was a crucial city in the French colonisation of West Africa. It was where they constructed their very first settlement in the area in 1659 and developed the capital. However Sene discussed that while Saint-Louis functioned as the “very first grip of and launchpad for French colonial growth in West Africa”, all at once, “the city slowly ended up being a location of a subtle yet multi-faceted resistance versus manifest destiny. The African neighborhood in the city boldly commemorated its cultural uniqueness in this colonial area.” Gradually, individuals of Saint-Louis established a terrific credibility and ended up being understood for their good manners, food and spiritual understanding.

Teraanga was utilized as a method to form the nascent nation’s identity

Whether teraanga started in Saint-Louis, it stays particularly strong there today. Astou Fall Gueye, a doctoral prospect in the University of Wisconsin’s Department of African Cultural Researches program, discussed that Saint-Louis “represents the embodiment” of this worth. “Whenever you think about teraanga in Senegal, you likewise think about ‘teraanga Ndar’,” she stated. “It’s really crucial because city’s culture. Individuals from that city sort of extol being the ones who understand finest how to practice teraanga.”

When Senegal ended up being independent in 1960, the word “teraanga” was utilized as a method to form the nascent nation’s identity. Making teraanga more noticeable through efforts like calling the nationwide football group the “Lions of Teranga” assisted the country to rally around the virtue and present it as an unique Senegalese worth to the world. Today, a range of services– from mineral business to visitor homes– bear the name “teraanga” and visitors see and feel this idea throughout the nation.

Teraanga is particularly noticeable in Senegal’s food culture. Marie Correa Fernandes, a Wolof speaker at the University of Kansas, discussed how hospitality is baked into every meal. “In lots of households, when they prepare, they bear in mind that somebody may come; it can be any person that you understand, or you may not understand.” To prepare to welcome even unintended visitors with teraanga, there’s frequently an additional plate all set, “simply in case”.

We really think that the more you provide, the more you get. That’s actually what teraanga is

And for visitors who do appear at mealtime, the Senegalese method of consuming embodies teraanga’s spirit of sharing. Typically, all restaurants consume from one big plate or bowl together. “However the very best part [of the dish] is constantly going to the visitors,” Thiam stated. “They provide you the best pieces of meat and fish and the veggies.” As Thiam sees it, the factor for this practice is easy. “We really think that the more you provide, the more you get. That’s actually what teraanga is.”

According to Fall Gueye, food’s function in teraanga does not end with meals. It likewise combines members of various faiths. Senegal is a bulk Muslim country, and around Easter “Christians have this meal that they prepare that we call ngalax, made from millet and peanut butter and baobab fruit powder,” she stated. “You will have households, Christian, bringing that food to Muslim households.” The vacation food sharing goes both methods: throughout the vacation of Eid al-Adha, Muslim celebrants provide lamb to their Christian neighbours.

” We commemorate both faiths, and it makes us feel great in the neighborhood,” Correa Fernandes included. “In teraanga, we have tolerance for the other. We are an extremely varied culture.”

Senegal is comprised of a number of ethnic groups, consisting of the Wolof, Pular, Serer, Mandinka, Jola and Soninke. However unlike neighbouring Guinea Bissau and Mali, which have actually battled with political coups and ethnic violence, Senegal’s variety hasn’t traditionally resulted in much dispute. In reality, the World Bank identifies Senegal among “Africa’s most steady nations”, and according to Sene, teraanga has actually assisted combine Senegalese of all backgrounds. “The important things that Senegalese share the most is the concept of teraanga,” he stated.

The important things that Senegalese share the most is the concept of teraanga

Correa Fernandes states that a person of the most crucial elements of teraanga is the welcoming. “You can’t simply come and resemble, ‘Where is the post workplace?’. Hey there … welcome me very first!” she stated. “Greetings are really crucial. It’s really impolite to simply be available in and begin talking without welcoming the other.”

This spirit keeps area life unified. “There’s this popular [Senegalese] stating that your neighbours are your household, due to the fact that if anything takes place to you, prior to even your instant household comes to save you, it’s going to be your neighbours initially,” Fall Gueye stated.

Neighborhood events likewise show teraanga’s inviting concept. Special occasions are usually open and inclusive. “You can not state to a single person, ‘You can come,’ or to the other, ‘No, you can’t come’,” Correa Fernandes stated. “Everyone’s welcomed.”

When Correa Fernandes got wed in her town, there were no invites. Her moms and dads let the neighbours understand when the wedding event would be, and “that day, everyone simply appeared”.

This openness to neighbours encompasses complete strangers travelling through a neighborhood, too. Maturing in a backwoods, Sene’s household frequently invited visitors into their house for a night or 2, often even longer. He believes this congenial spirit still holds today.

” In Dakar, even with the increasing privacy that huge cities are understood for, individuals would want to share whatever they have,” he stated. Demands to complete strangers for a location to rest, a restroom, a phone or water, would likely be addressed with teraanga. “You can walk Dakar, knock on the door, and state, ‘Could you provide me water?’. Individuals will provide you water with no issue.”

Among the nation’s most revered vocalists, Youssou N’Dour, has a song about teraanga that summarizes the idea. “ Nit ki ñew ci sa reew, bu yegsee teeru ko, sargal ko bachelor’s degree bu demee bëgg dellusi,” he sings. According to Correa Fernandes, it suggests, “Somebody who concerns your nation, when they get here, invite them, honour them a lot that when they leave they will wish to return.”

It’s no surprise we visitors to the nation can’t wait to return.

Why We Are What We Are is a BBC Travel series analyzing the attributes of a nation and examining whether they hold true.

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