26 November 2004

History of Gambian literature

Sheriff Samsideen Sarr (1951- )

Sheriff Samsideen Sarr was born in 1951. He started his carrier as a teacher and later on proceeded to study in the USA. He came back to The Gambia for a while before going back to America where he is presently residing. Meet me in Conakry has been, in the eighties, one of the most popular Pacesetter novels read by teenagers. It put S. S. Sarr on the list of the favourite African authors.

Meet Me In Conakry is a 152-page novel published in 1984 by Macmillan Education. The narrator, Sam, is a 19 year old young man who has just completed his secondary school education. He explains how, in 1971, he ran away from home on an adventurous journey along with two of his friends, Tam and Edi, to Senegal and Guinea Conakry. They were travelling without any official documents. They had no passport, no I.D. cards and they were as broke as a church mouse. In addition to their difficulties, they were faced with communication problems. Hiking in the Gambia towards Senegal, Job-hunting in Tambacounba, Senegal, hitchhiking to Guinea and finally, life in a military settlement at the Guinean border, makes reading Meet Me In Conakry, a suspense-filled novel for teenagers very exciting. The political tensions between Senegal and Guinea and the harassment of security personnel led them to return to their “Home, Sweet Home”. This novel was written during the period of the Senegambian Confederation (1981-1989). It depicts, among others, the nationalistic feelings of Gambians at the period.

Fodeh Baldeh (1948- )

Fodeh Baldeh was born in 1948 in Fulabatang. He started his studies in The Gambia then in Sierra Leone before moving to pursuing his advanced studies in Great Britain and Nigeria. Several articles were published by him in different newspapers. He is a very versatile professional, working sometimes as a teacher, editor and journalist.

A Fate of An African President is a collection of 39 poems written in 1981-1982 when the author was then in prison in the Gambia. Foday was imprisoned for being involved in the 1981 coup attempt staged by Kukoi Samba Sanyang. He was at the time lecturing at the Gambia College. These poetic texts, full of bitterness towards the conditions of his detention and towards those who imprisoned and condemned him, was only published fifteen years later, in 1996 in Nigeria. He is presently a lecturer at the University of The Gambia.

Sally Singateh (1977- )

Sally Singateh was born in The Gambia in 1977. Up to the time this article is written, it is believed Sally is still studying in France at l’Universit√© de Strasbourg. She has published several articles in The Voice of Young People and she won a Poetry Competition in the USA. She is the first Gambian woman to have published a literary work.

Christies’s Crisis, a 91-page novel written in 1998 and published by the East African Educational Publishers. Christie lives with her mother Anna. Her father, Musa, passed away six months earlier. She is 16 and lives like any other teenager. Anna, who is a lawyer, met a young lady who was not capable of taking care of her son. She appeals to Anna for help. Anna learns to her surprise that the father of the lady’s baby is her former husband. Christie’s paternal grandmother comes for a visit and one day, Christie overheard her grandmother talking to Musa over the phone. The confusing situation added to her sentimental problems will shake our teenager. She, together with her friends decide to mount an investigation. She soon discovers that her father was a drug baron surrounded by dubious characters.

Ben Roberts

resently no information can be forwarded on Ben Roberts but all efforts will be made to do so when each author is being introduced in depth.

College life on a continuum, written in 1998, is an autobiography of 137 pages published by Kabel Publishers in the USA. It is the first autobiographical work published by a Gambian. The author tells us about the years he spent, between August 1992 and May 1996, in the Missouri State College where he was studying economics. It recounts his first days in college, lectures, responsibilities, the petty jobs to make some money, the romantic adventures, sports and other serious problems encountered on campus (sex, drugs, racism, del
inquency…) The book ends with the exams and the Graduation Ceremony. A very good documentary of campus life in USA, seen through Gambian eyes.

Essa S. Colley (1962- )

Essa S. Colley was born in 1962 in The Gambia. Upon completion of his secondary schooling in Sierra Leone, he worked briefly in The Gambia before travelling extensively in Europe as an artist. He holds a degree from the Arts Academy of Helsinki University, in Finland where he is presently residing. His only known book is entitled If I Am Right Or Wrong.

If I Am Right Or Wrong, published in 1993, is a short novel of 54 pages printed in UK with the author bearing all costs. The narrator Buka, locked up in prison for murder, takes the reader through an adventurous narration beginning from the time he knew Bob up to the time he murdered him in self defence. From his childhood in The Gambia to his professional days in Sierra Leone, he was bullied and tormented by the victim.

Ebou Ibrahim Gaye (1968- )

Ebou Ibrahim Gaye was born in The Gambia in 1968. He obtained his GCE A’ levels in 1989 and that very year he started teaching up to 1990. From 1993 to 1997, he attended King Saud University in Saudi Arabia. He graduated with a B.A. honours and obtained a language proficiency Certificates in French. Back in The Gambia, he went back to the teaching field before joining the Department of State for Agriculture in 1999. From 1999 to date, Ebou Gaye has published more than hundred articles in the Daily Observer and other newspapers in the country. He is still writing. He is presently pursuing his Masters degree in French with the Universit√© de Limoges through P.A.D.E.F (the French Technical Assistance).

Patience is Accompanied by A Smile was published in Banjul in 1999. It is a novel of 103 pages. It is the story of Sulayman, the narrator, who recounts the different obstacles he was confronted with during his marriage and school days in The Gambia and Saudi Arabia.

Bala Saho (1963- )

Bala Saho was born in 1963 in Salikenye. From 1987 to 1990, he studied in Finland and graduated with a B.A. and a Masters degree in Economics and Social History. Bala Saho worked for the Department of State for Culture in different capacities as curator of the Museum and now as Principal Cultural Officer, Research and Documentation. He lectured History at the University of the Gambia. He is presently studying in the USA. He published two books. The first is a short novel entitled The Road To My Village and the second, Songs Of A Foraging Bird, is a collection of poems.

The Road To My Village was published in Helsinki in 1994. It is a novel of 80 pages. Musa, the hero, has just completed secondary school but cannot find a job. So he decides to go to Europe. What are the implications of such a decision? Is he going to abandon his love Majula, his friends and family? Will he come back to the village or deny his origins? Before going to Europe, however, Musa comes back to his native village and lives a life different from that of his parents. A deep meditation on the return journey with the firm resolution to live in the village without blindly copying the parents’ mode of life.

Songs For A Foraging Bird recently published in Banjul (2000), is a collection of 44 poems with illustrations. The bird pecks at the grains disseminated in the horizon of existence, gathering souvenirs and past memories of its journeys, acquaintances… The whole recollection exercise will lead to a series of interrogations on oneself and one’s loved ones. The image of the bird finds a new expression in the Gambian literary field (cf. Weaverdom of Tijan Sallah)

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