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Festivals in Gambia

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There are a number of Gambian festivals which have either been part of traditional society or have in modern times been recently created. Some are agricultural in origin having there roots in the land while others are related to the sky above such as the rainmaking festivals involving the women of the village.


Roots Festival

The festival is a celebration of Gambian culture through music, dance, arts and crafts. It also commemorates the enslavement and translocation of millions of Africans to the Americas. First held in 1996, the festival has now become a weeklong event held every year in June.

The Roots Festival is for anyone interested in the Culture of West Africa, but is especially aimed at people of African descent living in the diaspora. It hopes to offer you an opportunity to reunite with your roots in Africa.

The Gambia's biannual Roots International Festival of 2010 (formerly Homecoming) will be the 10th to be held in Banjul. It commemorates the forced enslavement and shipment of millions of Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean region. Africans and friends of Africa from the Diaspora are invited to attend and participate in the festival. It provides opportunities for atonement and reconciliation for those whose ancestors were engaged in slavery and the descendants of Africans forced into slavery. Its rich programme of events includes cultural performances from different ethnic groups, tours to historic sites such as Juffure & James Island, dance & drum workshops, carnival parades, ymposia, trade fairs, traditional sporting events and religious services.

Bob Marley Day

Bob Marley Day is very popular in this Gambia. The day of his death, May 11 is called "Bob Marley Day" and is widely celebrated by the younger generation. You will see evidence of the Rasta tradition many places in The Gambia, both in proud sporting of red, black, green and yellow, as well as blaring reggae music from passing bush taxis. Some youths use the day to illegally smoke Ganja while others attend electrifying gigs staged around the Kombos.

Fishing Festivals

Every year in the midst of the high season around April, Gambian villages hold fishing festivals which attract many young people from neighbouring villages. It is not a festival of merriment. What simply happens is usually a gathering of village young men at a water point to catch fish using different types of fishing tools.

Professor David Gamble writes in his book 'The Wollof of the Senegambia' (1957) that such festivals marked the end of the rest period between the harvest time and the onset of the rain when work on the new crop would start. The English explorer Richard Jobson describes this festival in his journal on his visit to the River Gambia in 1623 showing that it has a strong past.

The fishing soon starts with baskets, spears, harpoons, nets called Jola, while some use their bare hands. The latter method is called noho noho. It is done under the undergrowth of the pond, where lazy fish such as catfish or kono kono hide.

Nowadays, the festival is generally no longer observed in Gambia as the young men have migrated to the city.

Kartong Festival

Friday 26th and Saturday 27th of March 2010 Kartong celebrates its fifth anual festival. A unique opportunity to experience the best of local traditions and culture in a way that is as much for their friends and families as it is to visitors from overseas.

The Kartong Festival is set in one of the oldest and most unspoilt coastal villages of the Gambia, within walking distance of the soft sandy Atlantic beaches.

The Festival will be a host to the very best of music and dance from West Africans at home. The whole village of Kartong welcomes all and wishes to share the beauty and hospitality for which this area is renowned. Kartong is on the southerly border of the Gambia and the Casamance Region of Senegal, within easy of Banjul International Airport.

Wrestling in Gambia

Modern traditional wrestling is one of the oldest traditional sports in Gambia and wrestling festivals are a common occurrence. Leg locks are permitted but there are no patterned arm or head locks, or complicated points system. The object of the game is simply to throw one's opponent to the ground. The first wrestler down in the bout loses the contest.

The most common style of grappling is shown among the Mandinka, Fulas and Jolas. It involves each opponent grabbing each other's trunks at the start of the bout. After some strategic manoeuvrings each one would attempt to throw the other to the ground. Serers on the other hand prefer to go straight for the lets and render their opponent off-balance.

A wrestling match is part sport and part celebration with music. However, in Gambia it is more than just sport and entertainment. It is an important part of the traditional culture and is organised to reflect some of the most deeply rooted ideals of the societies that support it. The wrestling arena is a place to show courage, labour, strength, fair play; a place to honour the spirits of society.

Last Updated on Tuesday 16th March 2010

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