sacré yalla

sacré: (French) sacred

yalla: God

The sacré yalla is the Wolof name for the gap that some people have between their two front teeth. In African culture, this gap is extremely beautiful. Aunty Marilyn, a missionary friend who has spent 44 years in Senegal and who now lives in Thiès, tells me of how she encountered a Senegalese man on a plane once who had the sacré yalla.

He wanted to get it cosmetically fixed, and I said, But it’s beautiful in African culture! But he said, it’s not beautiful in Western culture, and I live and work in America now. He was torn between two worlds!

When I get home, I notice that my sister Rama in fact has the sacré yalla.

You have the sacré yalla, I say. Am nga sacré yalla!

She smiles shyly and with pleasure. Rafet na? Is it pretty?

Rafet na, I say. Rafet na turop!

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