The West African savannah is an area where old and new institutions fill the lacunae that limited statehood has left. Some of them claim a long history, others have emerged recently as a reaction to military and civil crises. The performance of power, its display and presentation, is a theme that all these associations share. They do so on different occasions and by different means, which highlights their diverging ethics and attitudes towards their local communities and the state. This introduction to the guest edited forum outlines central themes of these performances and discusses performativity in West African power associations.