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Posted - 13 Mar 2019 :  13:15:56  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Highlight of Gambia’s potential in underwater cultural heritage

The Point: Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Putting into consideration Gambia’s history as linked to its river, creeks, tributaries and the Atlantic coast, one of the country’s finest and learned historian have highlighted Gambia’s potential to participate in underwater cultural heritage if the country ratify the 2001 Convention.
Hassoum Ceesay explained to our reporter that from 1456, when the Portuguese sailors arrived, Gambian waters became even more intertwined with its history. “Henceforth, Spanish, French, British, American, Dutch and Courlanders strived for control of trade in the River Gambia. This was a time of maritime expeditions and maritime travel has its wrecks.”
Mr. Ceesay, a researcher, author and the acting Director General of National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) said to give proper assessment of Gambia’s underwater cultural heritage, there is need to start reiterating the role that River Gambia; which traverses the whole length of the country and beyond played in sea faring and exploration of the interior region of West Africa from 1446 to the present. “Due to its yearlong navigability and the absence of natural obstacles such as waterfalls, rapids, cataracts and rocks, River Gambia remained one of the most traversed rivers in Africa by European ships before and during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.”
He explained that almost all the major European colonial powers such as the British, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish have one time maintained maritime presence in The Gambia. “Fort James now called Kunta Kinteh Island was the bastion of these powers at successive times from where the European ships sailed into the interior to trade.”
Mr. Ceesay said during the colonial period, historians narrated that River Gambia was the main artery of communication in the colony, saying the British realised the importance of the River for communication and did not attempt to build road. “Instead, a series of river vessels such as MV Fulladu, MV Mansa Kila, MV Lady Wright and MV Stanhope and after independence, MV Lady Chilel plied the river, carrying mails, cargo and passengers. All these vessels sank in the river and their hulks remain underwater as testimony to the role of the river in Gambian history.”
He said in their efforts, the NCAC received communication from the Smithsonian Institution regarding possible underwater archeology (shipwrecks) exploration in the River Gambia in 2009. “Since then, NCAC has made several efforts to obtain basic information about water speed, water turbidity, warmth and aquatic life of the River Gambia which has been passed onto the Smithsonian who are now considering it.”
Gambia’s Underwater Cultural Heritage ranges from shipwrecks, battlefields, jetties and ports, trading stations, and partially submerged historic sites. “If Gambia’s potentially rich underwater heritage culture is fully studied and known, it can help in tourism promotion and in interpreting hidden aspects of our history.”

Author: Yunus S Saliu

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone
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