By Alagie Manneh
The National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), has expressed its readiness to begin work to revive Sanawyaa, joking relationships, following recommendations by the truth commission that the practice is a tool for maintaining peace and reconciliation.
The recommendations were contained in a 16-volume report made public last month. The Commission called on NCAC and the National Council for Civic Education to embark on reviving the culture of joking relationships.
“The revival will be a powerful tool for national unity, cohesion, reconciliation, and genuine friendship,” Hassoum Ceesay, the director of the NCAC, told The Standard in welcoming the recommendations.
He added that the NCAC is honoured with such responsibility, calling it a “wonderful challenge”.
“It is a very, very important recommendation that we are taking up immediately,” Mr. Ceesay said.
Outlining how it would help foster reconciliation, he said: “Since the founding of the Mali Empire, in the 11th century, joking relationships have been a key component in forging social stability and harmony. When Sundiata Keita defeated Sumanguru and ended the tyranny of the Susu over the Mande, at the Battle of Kerina in 1235, that was the real origin of these joking relations. It also marked the beginning of Mande independence. It was a very tough battle. Kerina is in present-day Mali. During the battle, those who were fighting on the side of the Mande army were observing each other. Some lost their shoes; some sat under trees and others did some very funny actions so as to survive the Susu onslaught. After the war, they began throwing jokes at each other. ‘Ah, I saw a Touray on the battlefield and he was hiding behind the horse to escape the arrows of the Susus. That’s how joking relations started, and it’s almost 1000 years old.”
Mr Ceesay said that joking relationships have also been used as an antidote to violence, excesses, and even tyranny.
“[Joking relationships] are such that different tribesmen can come and whisper some unpleasant truth in your ear and you cannot take umbrage,” he explained.