A TRAVELER’S TALES OF WANDERLUST IN AFRICA
Basainey Ebrahima Jammeh
Available on Amazon
This book is about a young man, a teenager Kemo who embarked on a journey of adventure much like that described in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. He embarked on a journey to discover “kabaaku”, which could mean ‘wisdom’ in Mandingo dialect. It is a satire and perhaps a fantasy because of its ridicule of society using imaginary scenarios that are improbable in reality. Kemo’s journey in search of kabaaku could be symbolic of many young men particularly in the Third World but also elsewhere who travel abroad in search of a better life. It is also quite fittingly a father-child relationship although not as profound as in Khaled Hosseini’s stories. The relation between Kemo and his “baba” Suntungkung, and between Kemo and the “old woman’s father”.
The book while very simplistic (in both the plot and its view of Africa- rural life) is actually rife with moral lessons relevant to rural Mandingo upbringing. It is written in an easy to understand English but it could still be somewhat hard for the American reader because of what I call the ‘Achebe effect’’.
Mama Bantang and Ba-Demba in chapter 2 is a conflict between good and evil, a recurring theme in Mandingo folklore. The resolution of this conflict, while is a triumph of good over evil, ironically reinforced the believe in “witchcraft” rather than debunk it, In chapters 3 and 4, monkeys and goats depict issues of sexual orientation, perhaps symbolic of issues many societies are grappling with today. The meaning of kabaaku was reveal to Kemo in chapter 11
after proving himself a hardworking young man by helping on the farm.
In his quest to discover kabakuu, KEMO came across a number of controversial issues such as prostitution, same sex relationships, inequality, corruption, greed, etc. and interestingly the book took a very conservative position on those practices.
The book ended in Kemo’s return home. He was well received and respected for his achievement.
I’d use ‘preserving’ instead of ‘conserving’ (page. 4 ) although the two can be synonyms, ‘stream’ instead of “water stream” (page. 37, ‘cereal’ instead of “maize cereal”, (page 39), ‘forest’ instead of “jungle forest”, ‘fire’ instead of “fire light”, ‘ground’ instead of “earth surface”, It’s simply tautology which adds no value to the meaning.
The book will be useful to young adults and those interested in community development especially in rural third world countries. T
he book could benefit from a more rigorous editing, and I hope future editions are more cognizant of style and dictum befitting a global audience .
More Gambians need to write and tell their own stories because when someone else tell your story, their perspective doesn’t often represent yours. Certainly Jammeh has laid a solid foundation here as a startup and I look forward to reading more of his books.