Sankulay Kunda:- Home of a palm wine tapper
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Sankulay Kunda perhaps first hit the limelight in 1992 when a public bus sunk into its river. Situated some 300 kilometers away from Banjul, the community finds itself in the Lower Fulladu District of Central River Region. For many years, tales dominating the history of this community revolves around its river, a few meters strip which was believed to have been possessed by apparitions and regarded as the deepest and most dangerous waters in the country.
The community was also a bastion of rice cultivation particularly during the days when upland rice cultivation in The Gambia was masterminded by the peoples republic of China. In our exploration to uncover the historical rite of passage of the community, not much was gathered but this piece can serve as a base for reflection.
Sources say the community of Sankulay Kunda is over a century old. The community in the old good days was a virgin forest inundated with palm trees. Whilst it is apparent that most of the communities that today surrounds Sankulay Kunda were in existent, this portion of the forest was inhabited by human beings and the fact that the community’s river was a n go areas as it was believed to be possessed by apparition suggest that such a believe was also true for the forest thus restricting the minds of the people and crippling any attempt to exploit the forest.
Sources however went on to note that during those days, the virgin forest was used by one Sankulay (his identity and original home not known) for palm wine tapping and it was him (palm wine tapper) that the founder of the community met during his search for a settlement.
The community was therefore named after this palm wine tapper-Sankuly and the Kunda a Mandinka parlance means home. Literally, Sankulay Kunda can einterpreted o mean home of Sankulay. Though sources say Sankulay never transformed the forest into human settlement as he only utilized it for palm wine tapping purposes.
The alteration of the apparition possessed virgin forest into human habitat owes it credit to one Musa Jaiteh. He was said o have migrated from the eastern region of president day Mali during his youthful ages to fend for self. A journey that brought him to the central dell of The Gambia to the establishment of the community that today is known as Sankulay Kunda. Death and old age can have drawbacks for those exploring oral history.
Such was the case in our research expedition in Sankulay Kunda. Those who were privileged to witness the unfolding of history have passed onto the land of the silent father; old age emptied the memories the few remaining and those who we were privileged to interrogate could provide an insight of what happened a century ago. We therefore could not explore the legacy of the founder of this community-Musa Jaiteh particularly his early days in Mali and the circumstances leading to his migration. All what sources know is that he hailed from Mali in search of the treasurers of life and eventually ended up establishing the community of Sankulay Kunda before pass onto the silent land.
Stories of the river and its apparitions are however fresh. Sources regard the community’s tiny crossing point as the smallest, deepest and yet most dangerous water ways in the country. The spirits that once possessed the river were believed to be very cruel with human sacrifice their culture. The river was claimed to be so dangerous that even when someone is crossing it and says the river rive is very small would drown.
Aborigines and expansion
As earlier stated, the community of Sankulay Kunda was founded by one Musa Jaiteh who migrated from the eastern prefecture Mali. Prior to his intercession, the land was a virgin forest utilized only by the man who the community was named after for palm wine tapping. As the settlement began to grow and the proximity of the settlement to the fresh waters of the river Gambia, which makes it a fertile ground for agricultural activities including rice cultivation and fishing, people began migrating from left, right and center to join the founders in the company of the new home. Today, though relatively small, the community of Sankulay Kunda still maintains its culture of agriculture and with the arrival of modern infrastructural development at the gate of the community (the bridge in particular), indigenes remain comfortable with what the community is offering.
Just like many traditional African communal settings, the community of Sankulay Kunda still puts emphasis on the traditional philosophy of lineage. Succession to the thrown of alikalo remains entirely the affair of the founders and they passed the traditional regalia to each other base on age. Suffice it to say, the alkaloship of the community of Sankulay Kunda is in the hands of the Jaiteh.
This is because as tradition demands, they are the founders and as such reserve the right to physically and spiritually supervise the affairs of the community. However, sources noted that at a certain time in history, the authority of the community was bestowed on someone outside the Jaiteh clan. This was said to be due to the fact that those on the line to succession were too young to assume leadership and authority.
It is obvious that no traditional African society exists with out a traditional ideology which revolves around believe in sprits, deities and the like. The community of Sankulay Kunda was also premised on traditional African practices. Sources noted during the early days of settlement, people often pray for rain, good harvest among others.
Both men and women dressed in traditional attires would carry leafs accompanied by drumming and dancing march to the river to perform rituals to pray for rain, overcome their plight, alleviate bareness among others. The community was also premised on age grades and observes traditional circumcision rights for both men and women.
Author: Gibairu Janneh