In Niger, a centuries-old custom that allows people to make jokes at the expense of their "cousins" from other tribes, far from exacerbating ethnic tensions, actually has a calming effect on them.Being of Scandinavian heritage, we have jokes where we make fun of ourselves, playing off the stereotype of cheap, hardworking, dumb and romantically inept Norwegians/Swedes. They make the occasional appearance on Prairie Home Companion. Here are a couple:
Under the accepted "rules", the person targeted has to put a brave face on things and anyone who loses his temper or gets upset when "attacked" becomes a laughing stock within his own community, Ali Bida said.
But in a time of heightened tension caused by a Tuareg rebellion in the north, some people in Niger find the practice increasingly difficult.
Sidi, a Tuareg living in Niamey says he is sick and tired of hearing his Djerma "cousins" call him a "bandit" and tease him about planting anti-personnel mines.
In April, Niger authorities even plan to organise a "National Week of Ethnic Jokes" with radio programmes, conferences, joke competitions and cultural evenings.
Vun day, Sven vas valking down da street ven who did he see driving a brand new Chevrolet? It vas Ole. Ole pulled up to him vit a vide smile.
"Ole, vere did ya get dat car?" Sven asked.
"Lena gave it to me".
"She gave it to you? I knew she vas sveet on you, but dis?".
"Vell, let me tell you vat happened. Ve vere driving out on county road 6, in da middle of novere. Lena pulled off da road into da woods. She parked, got out of da car, trew off alla her clothes and said, "Ole take vatever you vant."...So I took da car"
"Ole, your a smart man, dem clothes never voulda fit ya."
Sven was just pulling his boat up on shore when Ole wandered up with a puzzlement:
Ole: Sven! Vat cho been doin?
Sven: I bin fishin, Ole. Wha cho tink I bin doin with dese here rods?
Ole: Ditcha catch anythin?
Sven: (Under his breath: "Dumb svede.") Of course I catch somethin. Sven alvays catches ven he fishes.
Ole: If I guess how many you catch will you gimme one o' dem?
Sven: If you guesses how many I catch I'll give you BOTH a dem!
Ole: I guess TREE!
Sven: Dat ain't bad for a Svede. You only missed it by TWO!