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Posted - 10 May 2020 :  16:52:50  Show Profile Send Momodou a Private Message  Reply with Quote

I hail from Bathurst, the tiny city of the one of the tiniest countries of West Africa.. It was named after the English Earl of Bathurst. The other sounds of nature reminding one of the countryside that woke the city - the cock crows, the melodic song of the small bird that we interpreted in wollof “ Johk lhen bhor sett nah weeh “, the Adhan – call for prayer at the Clifton Road ( now Independence Drive) by Uncle Nieyeh Jobe , the voice of Pa Fodaba calling all Muslims to wake up for fajarr prayers , the sound of the bugle from Government House, the official residence of the colonial Governor marking the change of the morning guard , the sound of The Gambia’s Big Ben the Garrison clock at the Quadrangle, the sound of both the Anglican King’s Church of Clifton Road and Roman Catholic Church bells of Hagan Street , The sound of the siren of the Public works Department (P.W.D) marking the beginning of work for workers of the biggest government department and last but not the least the murmuring sounds of Sanjally Bojang’s laborers passing by Clifton Road heading to work at the groundnut factory at Denton Bridge. The evening would end with the horns of Auriol and Appapa blowing their hounds for the return journey to the West Coast ferrying workers to Banjul and mostly hard working women folks mainly vegetable and fruit vendors returning home to Burfut , Gunjur and the surrounding villages . These entire blends to make euphony of sounds that leave a permanent impression in the minds of citizens and strangers alike. The gateway to Bathurst Island was the only place that had a traffic light located at Denton Bridge which was so narrow that this signal had to be erected to allow vehicles to move in turns from each direction. It took over 30 years or more after Independence before the capital now named Banjul to have traffic light.

Bathurst was a melting pot as described by an American author as “A little village trying to be a town now called a city “. This was an apt description of this small town with a population of only 31,000, that we have come to love and cherish so much and whose citizens have contributed so much, as still do, to the development the unlikely country that skeptics at Independence predicted would never survive. With a population of just 500,000, the joke was that the cattle population in the country was more than the human population. Bathurst was what we called “ Benna Nyebbeh chi chin “ once the literal translation of which “ one bean in a cooking pot”.However, the smallness of the town that unified the population. Everybody knew everybody else and marriages were families. This way, there was empathy and solidarity. People knew each other to the extent that one could name all the numbers on their streets in his area and the compound numbers. Some individuals even could tell you the number of lamp poles in each street in their area.
That is why today Banjul has a unique character. We have surnames that originate from all over the region and beyond. As a matter of fact everybody can trace their origins fron outside the Gambia – Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, West Indies etc. There were also Portuguese and British settlers. Since the Wollofs from Senegal were the first immigrants to settle in Bathurst in large numbers, the subsequent settlers adopted the language spoken by the majority of the sedentary citizens - Wollof which to the present day remains the lingua franca.
The large majority of Banjulians were Muslims but that did influence in any way the personal relations between the citizens. As a matter lots of Moslems had Christian relatives. As a unified fami, we attended church services and some of our Christian friends also attended “ darra“ the kuranic school with us. Of course at that time the all the schools in Bathurst were built by the Christian missionaries – Anglican, Roman Catholic and Methodist except the Mohamedan Schoo.l and the Muslim children went to these schools and learnt the Bible. The majority Muslim children went to were Once again my quote “Banjul, Kung killing “(Banjul one head). There was solidarity and good neighborliness and sympathy and solidarity.
Bathurst was a town where every parent was a parent for all and they all took care of each other’s children. The peaceful coexistence among each other resulted in an adopted tradition that the citizens never went past each other without a word of greetings .This applied to both young and old. Unfortunately, this good practice diminished from our society as the population increased and more people arrived to settle in the town.. . When one family is building a house, it is everybody’s business. Just provide the lunch and builders will volunteer to work. The day of the roofing colorful silk head ties brought by the sisters of the person building the house and nailed or hoisted at the gables and every family brings some food and water as a good gesture and appreciation for the volunteers.
My memory draws me back to the good practices of Bathurst was that we observed and respected each other and respected the dead. In Bathurst, the cemetery for Moslems and that of the Christians were just outside the town and people carried the coffins on foot to the burial site. The Christians had a horse drawn hearse and later drawn by men. The carriage was housed at Clifton Road opposite the RVTH at the premises on which the present Take Care Optic is situated. When a funeral procession was going past people would stand up as a sign of respect. The carriage was later house at place opposite the Muslim and Christian Cemeteries just after where Gambia High School is now located. The same place was earlier a holing area for cows destined for the slaughter house at the Royal Albert Market in Bathurst.
The educated citizens in Bathurst were either working in the colonial government ar was trading in commodities and buying groundnuts and palm kernels for export to England. There were a multitude of trading posts mainly along the river and groundnuts purchased for foreign firms established in Gambia, were transported by ground cutters and barges. These traders from Bathurst were on the prominent elites mainly among the Wollofs and Aku Marabou built up very cordial the with people in their trading post in the Protectorate and in many cases adopted many children of the local citizens to b to stay with them, trained and educated in Bathurst . The schools were limits in the Protectorate. All the high schools or secondary schools except one were in Bathurst. The true elders of Bathurst were very accommodative, hospitable and true Muslims who practiced the doctrines according to the teachings of Islam. A number of prominent Gambian personalities among those who moved from the provinces through adopted parentage to Banjul was the came to Bathurst in this manner among them the first president of the country the Late Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara who was hosted by the family of late Alh Yommaa Jallow . These sorts of relationship bonded people together as real families.
The interesting part of my story starts with a unique group that “ “Ndongos” were fond of teasing not realizing the important part they played in our lives .
Bathurst those days did not have flush toilets but had both pit and pail latrines that were evacuated every night or weekly by immigrant workers from Mali. This continued until the creation of the sewage system in the entire city of Banjul. The original name that the town was called before the British renamed it for the Earl of Bathurst. The Malians initially were seasonal workers but later they settles and had families in Bathurst .The Bambaras from Mali also played a big role in the cultural diversity of town especially during the festivities of Quartoze Juillet the French celebration of 14th July. During the celebration, many masked dancers and other performers take part - like the “ fatou jamana “ and mama parra and “ marigo yumbey kalla “ are unique cultural displays that we all cherish and remembered as youths . The Mauritanian community added to the flavor of the cultural celebration of 15th August each year by bringing in cultural groups and camels to add to the festivities.
In the early days of Bathurst, the majority wollofs, Mandinkas from the Protectorate (Provinces), and Fulas, Sereres, Manjagos made up the demography from Guinea Bissau and Jolas from Casamance and Gambian Foni and some. These in local parlance were called Kerchen of Gourmet. There was a large section of the population made up of descendants of freed slaves from the West Indies who were brought to settle in Bathurst by the colonial masters from Sierra Leone and who mainly worked in the colonial administration and in trading. That is why for a long time almost everybody spoke Krio or Aku, a form of Pidgin English. All the Banjulians carrying English sounding and Yoruba names are descendants of this group of Banjulians. They were all invariably Christians of the Anglican and Methodist denominations. These was also another group from Sierra Leone called Oku Marabou and erroneously called Hausa because they were Krios who Moslem were.
With this motley array of ethnic groups and peoples, Bathurst was a unified entity. A family without discrimination of ethnic, religion, or social status. It was TRIBELESS. This Bathurst welcomed and accepted foreigners and never called people coming in as Foreigners or strangers. That is because we all came and made Bathurst into what it is. The aversion that has been rearing its ugly head in the past few years vis a vis BANJULIANS came out of sheer lach of understanding of where Banjul came from and what Bathurst has been up to the present day - a tapestry of tribes and peoples from the West African Region from Nigeria to Mauritania as well as from the various Provinces of Gambia. Everybody came, found a place and settled down as Banjulians .It was a cosmopolitan town that gave the possibility to all residents blend in and progress.. This is why the true Banjulian cannot be seen to come from on single tribe and that is what we need in this country. A non-tribal Gambia.
To be continued

A clear conscience fears no accusation - proverb from Sierra Leone


11452 Posts

Posted - 10 May 2020 :  17:30:07  Show Profile Send toubab1020 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"This is why the true Banjulian cannot be seen to come from on single tribe and that is what we need in this country. A non-tribal Gambia."

Well written, cannot wait for the next lesson in history, unless YOU write it that information in YOUR mind will only be embellished as time goes on into the usual African ORAL History,important as that is it can NEVER replace the written word.

Think about writing a BOOK of the times YOU knew at a time when the world was a very different place.

"Simple is good" & I strongly dislike politics. You cannot defend the indefensible.
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