I Love Teranga

from Shane's Muslim Connect

I learned something really cool recently: Senegal is known as the country of teranga. While difficult to translate, teranga communicates a sense of hospitality, respect, inclusion, and looking out for the other. It captures an essence of Senegalese culture and describes a common purpose of both the people and the nation. 

As is often true, this cultural reality can be readily seen around the table, or, in the case of Senegal, the bowl. Meals are frequently eaten from a common bowl, and there’s always room for an extra hand in the dish. In fact, the best bits are pushed toward the visitor. 

Senegalese chef and author, Pierre Thiam says, “There's always room for the other around your bowl. Why? Because we believe that the other is bringing blessings. When you share your bowl, your bowl will always be plentiful. . . . This is a country that values the wealth of a person not by how much he has, but by how much he shares, by how much he gives.”

Teranga has characterized the people of western Africa for centuries but found new life when Senegal became independent in 1960. The first president, Léopold Senghor, championed the idea and the term to encourage unity across religions and peoples. 

The stability that Senegal enjoys shows that it worked. As does the tendency of Muslims to share with Christians during Tabaski (the Wolof word for Eid al Adha) and Christians to share with Muslims Christmastime.

I love the idea of teranga in part because it feels so much like the kingdom of God. I want to embody it myself. And hopefully part of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be eaten from bowls, with your hand and mine intermixed with hands of Wolof, Fula, Soninke, Jola, and Mandinka peoples.