cultural norms

My favorite ethnic group here

So as weird as that might sound and of the many ethnic groups of Senegal, having one you prefer is just as normal as having one you don’t. Whether its the language you learned when you first came here or it’s who your host family most identifies with or who throws the best parties (any and all are good reasons) its easy to have. Tribes, clans, families, people you share sometime with is how we not only identify but confirm our sense of purpose in a place.

This favoritism might sound a bit xenophobic but we all do it. We show a preference to things, people and places over others. Hopefully not to the point of fully excluding some things, people or places but also if it’s not good for you, there is no reason to make yourself be around it.

My name last name is Sarr, is Sereer, but I live in a mostly Wolof village. With my open, big personality strangely I shy away from the Wolofs who are typically argumentative, loud and proud (this is not always the case, but is much more so generally than other ethnic groups)

While Sereers are quieter, seem to be more educated and seem to keep more of the historical stories. Personally, I would agree with this and since I’m writing this, of course Sereers are my preferred group of people to be around.

Some of the volunteers say that you can tell some of the ethnicity apart by looking at the, much like you can in the rest of the world, when you have an idea of what groups are involved.

Girls attending a wedding in my village

In reading Senegambia And the Atlantic Slave Trade by Bouabcar Barry I love the description of my family’s ethnicity,

“Farther south, the Wolof region shades into territory inhabited by the Sereer. The Sereer are a peasant people, originally from the Senegal River valley, where records indicate their presence up until the eleventh century. Having rejected both Islam and the domination of the Jolof, the Sereer gradually settled on the wooded highlands of the Siin and Saalum, traveling in successive waves of large family movements…who thus became the first to take possession of the woodlands, took on the functions of community heads and territorial rulers until the fourteenth century…” p. 16

Group of teenagers in my village sitting on a basin out at the gardens

Strangely reading this after being here for a year and half, I find it true as well. I do love Sereers and find myself drawn to them more so than others here by chance. When talking to a fellow volunteer in a Sereer village she mentions how typically dark skinned they are; deal with confrontations quietly, sometimes whispering even; and are overall hardworking and forward thinking.

There are Wolofs, Mandinkas,  Seerers, and some Pulars and Bamberas in this sub-region as well. And in Senegal are many more smaller ethnic groups such as Malian, Mauritanians, Gambians and others.

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