France, Americas, Africa: The “Y'a Bon” Awards

Photo courtesy that_james, published under a Creative Commons License. Visit that_james’ flickr photostream.

“Banania” is a popular French hot chocolate mix, launched in France in 1912. In the marketing strategy, the choice was made to associate this product (made of chocolate, banana, milk and sugar) with Africa or the French West Indies, in order to make it sound more exotic.

In 1915, during the First World War, soldiers came from the French colonies in Africa to fight for their Motherland. That was the beginning of a long relationship between the brand and the image of the Tirailleur Sénégalais. At the time, Senegal was enough of a household name in France to lend “exotic” authenticity to this product, originally exported from Nicaragua. The image of this happy, smiling soldier coming from Africa to fight for France in the war, was associated with a now-controversial slogan: “Y'a bon”. This phrase – supposedly a form of broken French used by Africans to say “It's good”- was, for decades, (certainly up to the 1970's) linked with the image of the Senegalese soldier as a symbol of the product's authenticity.

Ethnic Stereotype by just.Luc, on Flickr, under Creative Commons
Image courtesy just.Luc, used under a Creative Commons License. Visit just.Luc's flickr photostream.

Back in 2005, blogger Alain Mabanckou published a blogpost [Fr] entitled “Y'a Bon Banania ou Y'a Pas Bon Banania” about an action group of Guadeloupeans, Martinicans and Reunionese called Collectif DOM which sued Nutrimaine, the company which produces Banania, for…

…d’utiliser des clichés insultants pour les personnes de couleur noire, en exploitant l’image du tirailleur sénégalais et son fameux slogan « Banania Y’a bon » créés au début du siècle dernier…

…using insulting prejudices against Black people, by commercializing the image of the Senegalese soldier and its famous slogan “Banania Y'a Bon”, launched at the beginning of the 20th century…

In 2008, another action group, le MRAP [Fr] (Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between the Peoples) sued Nutrimaine again for not respecting an agreement signed in 2006 with the Collectif DOM, after the charges were laid against the company. According to blogger Storytelling, the MRAP was nonsuited [Fr]…

au prétexte que ce slogan ne trouble pas l’ordre public ni n’est contraire aux bonnes moeurs.

under the pretext that this slogan does not disturb public order nor breaches good morals.

by ɐılnɾ, under License Creative Commons
Photo by ɐılnɾ, used under a Creative Commons License. Visit ɐılnɾ's flickr photostream.

Today, Banania uses a sort of cartoon character as its mascot and the controversial slogan has disappeared – but most black people in France are still not reconciled with the brand. On March 17th 2009, a group called les Indivisibles [Fr] launched the “Y'a Bon Awards”, a dubious honour, bestowed upon politicians, journalists, or any public officials who have contributed to the spreading of racism in France. Montray Kreyol [Fr] posts the link to the list of all the recipients of the “Y'a Bon Awards”, and you can follow more reactions to this century-long advertising campaign on just.Luc's Ethnic Stereotype flickr page.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.