Last Friday, October 28 was heralded by many a Gambian as another promising moment in the country’s literary landscape. It marked the unveiling of a small project I had been working on for few years despite its relatively small size of forty-four pages.
The launching ceremony itself had received more than its fair share of publicity both on social media and the country’s leading media houses. So also was the same by young Gambians who have been very instrumental in popularising the project even before they had perused through the pages. To this end, I say thank to you to every Gambian especially journalists, youth activists, my lecturers and UTG, where I was challenged by Mr. Gherran Senghore to be publishing weekly essays/articles as a matter of principle.
Writing has ever been a Herculean undertaking; a skill that is harnessed through intensive and extensive reading even though it can be considered a gift for some people. Growing up as an unlettered chap, I could vividly recall seeing few books authored by Gambians namely ‘Chaff on the Wind’ and ‘Meet Me in Conakry’ by Ebou Dibba and Samsideen Sarr respectively. Even though I have never had any significant go at those two literary works by two sons of the soil, I found them to be fascinating and cardinal symbols of intellectual fulfillment. This is because the authoring of a book has been seen by most of us then and even to this day as a near impossible job that is the preserve of few gifted wise heads.
I must also state here that following in the footsteps of some of The Gambia’s s acclaimed writers like the erudite and charismatic Nana Grey-Johnson, the humble yet supremely gifted Baba Sherrif Bojang as well as the talented and urber-confident Momodou Sabally is never going to be any easy feat. But with them ahead, the future looks bright for up and coming ones like us.
Looking back on those infant days of my schooling, it was not uncommon to hear from an older person that reading whatever come one’s way causes insanity. As ridiculous as this may sound, it was one you get to hear the moment you have developed the habit of picking and reading any scrap of paper one stumbles on. Those were mere superstition and for me, I never wavered in trying to read any readable I had chance upon.
In truth, my passion for writing was lit at Nusrat Senior Secondary School having enrolled in the Arts. Literature-in-English became one subject I fell in love with. By the time I got to the eleventh grade, three books: ‘The Concubine’ by Elechi Amadi, ‘Gods are not to blame’ by Ola Rotami and ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell became few works that would shape my understanding of literature and its many beauties.
Just like any other high school goer, arts students in particular, we in those days could be heard bluffing around and bandying about few lines we had captured from those very rich literature books laden with almost every facet of life. As a matter of fact, literature is a thing of beauty. In it lies creativity, suspense and other lessons of life.
Ironically, most of those are books authored by non Gambians and despite their similarities with our social and cultural realities here, I do think we still need more Gambian books in our schools. That, in my opinion, will be of greater relevance to our education system. No one needs reminding that people are bound to connect themselves more with something that bears a taste of familiarity.
To those young ones who are so much passionate about writing, let me humbly urge you to give it a shot. The road may be bumpy but it’s a noble cause that is worth pursuing….Once again, let me say thank you to all for your unconditional support and love.
by Famara Fofana