The Gambia’s only literary publication
The inaugural issue
In September 1971 the first volume of a literary publication was born. It was produced by the then Gambia’s Writers Club and on its inception it was destined to provide an outlet for all creative Gambian writing. Before NDAANAN came to being, the only known Gambian writer who published a book was Dr Lenrie Peters. In the maiden edition, Dr Peters wrote the Foreword, which is reproduced below:
Ndaanan, I am told, is the wollof word for ‘an accomplished griot’ and as the griot is in a sense a total artist embracing music and dancing, poetry and history, I think Ndaanan eminently expresses the aims of a Literary Publication with which I am proud to be associated.
Long before the Radio, the Cinema and Television, the printed word had for centuries been the main avenue of intercourse between peoples, serving as a means of expression and communication as well as a record of human thought and expression.
As far as I know, the Gambia has not produced a Literary Magazine of Ndaanan’ ambition, and it is a tribute to Mr Conateh and his colleagues that they have now given us something very worthwhile in which both the accomplished and the initiate can participate alike.
The aim of this bi-annual is to simulate Literary activities of all kinds and to provide an outlet (though I hope channelled) for the seething Gambian talents. Already we are much encouraged and impressed by the quality and variety of the materiel we have received, but the editorial committee is rightly keen that contributions are not limited to short plays, essays, cartoons, photographs with commentary relating to pottery, carving, weaving will in due course come our way so that Ndaanan will become a comprehensive publication of the total Literary activities of Gambians.
But it is not enough to publish and be damned. In order to survive, literary magazines require sustenance in the form of an active readership and, of course, money.
This inaugural issue may well be the foundation stone of an exciting future for Literature in the Gambia.
It is up to us, and who knows that in our search for talent, we may not discover genius?
From Dr Peters’ foreword one learns that Ndanaan is bi-annual and this first edition was published in September, the other issue was meant to appear in March. It is equally mentioned that the contributions varied.
In this maiden issue there will be 8 stories, 1 play and 16 poems. There are 12 contributors. Those who contributed to it are: Mr Ebrima Jallow, Mr Swaebou Conateh, Mr E. Midnight, Mr Charles Jow, Mr Salifu L. Kujabi, Mr Hassoum Ceesay, Dr Lenries Peters, Mr Hassan Jagne, Mr George Lapedon-Thomas, Mr Gabriel Roberts and the only two female contributors, Ms Essie and Mrs Kwela Robinson.
Mr Ebrima Jallow was a young Gambian graduate in Science, who wrote short stories in his spare time and who was working for the Fisheries Department.
Dr Lenries Peters is a surgeon, poet and a well-known Gambian writer. At the time, Dr Peters already published in first and only novel The Second Round and his latest collection of poems entitled Satellites.
Mr E. Midnight (pen name) worked for the government and lived to write in his spare time.
The late Charles Jow was a young Gambian with an MA in English teaching at the Gambia High School and who enjoyed writing short stories. He was married with two children.
Mr Gabriel Roberts, a top Gambian educationist and schoolmaster was a playwright as well as a producer of plays and equally wrote poems. He published a number of articles in educational publications and The Trial of Busumbala, one of his plays, was already broadcast over BBC.
Mr Swaebou Conateh was a young Gambian graduate in Journalism. He was not only a broadcasting officer but wrote poems, short stories and was also trying to write plays. He already wrote and published numerous articles in foreign newspapers.
Mr Hasan Jagne was a graduate teacher at the Gambia High School. His interest was in writing poems, as he was enthusiastic in poetry.
Mrs Kwela Robinson was the only non-Gambian contributor to the issue. She was an interior decorator but wrote stories and poems in her spare time.
Ms Essie, the sole Gambian female contributor, felt many Gambian women should engage in writing, as they were competent to submit creative work. She was working with the Government. She wrote, not only short stories, articles and plays, but had a general interest in women affairs.
Mr Hasan Ceesay was working for the Gambia Airways in Bathurst (Banjul) and wrote poems and newspaper articles in his spare time. He had published numerous poems and short stories in the local newspaper.
Mr George Lapedon- Thomas was a Gambian graduate teaching at the local Teacher Training College (now the Gambia College).
Mr Salifu Kujabi was a qualified primary school teacher and enjoyed writing short stories, poems and plays.
The eight stories are all Gambian stories written with a tint of our Gambian cultures. They range from a difficult family set-up, a maraboutic experience, women’s plight and obscure traditions. These stories were meant to enlighten folks about the difficult life Africans live and equally questions certain traditional practices. Below is an excerpt of the first story:
A Man at Fault by Ebou Jallow
“...His name is Ali and he was an old retired soldier, still wearing a heavy, old army coat, even though it was quite hot under the sun (....) Although small and lean, there was nevertheless something impressive in his bearing. (...) In fact, his private belief was that obedience and discipline were only achieved by beating. As a consequence, he distributed blows indiscriminately on the face, chest or back of his children, in the certainly that there was no other way to bring then up.”
Some people hinted that he was afraid of his wife. Others pointed out sententiously that his wife must have used a ju-ju on him, else how could one explain the fact that this man of dignity, this old soldier who had already proven himself in the sands of far-off North Africa let his wife scold him and generally dominate him. But as the story unfolds, Ali will explain how this came about. His wife, Tumata, got pregnant of their first child, a boy.
“Tumata was pregnant. In his blind rage, he had one day given her a terrible beating. At the end of it, Tumata had crumpled on the floor, unmoving. He was certain she was death. But later at the hospital, where Ali’s neighbours had taken Tumata, he was informed that Tumata had had a miscarriage. The stillborn baby had been a boy. (...) On Sundays, when Ali sat with his friends at Alpha’s shop, they would all make jokes about how Ali allowed his wife to bully him mercilessly or they would ask him why he allowed her to rule him so. To all this Ali would make no reply. He would sit immobile, chewing his cola-nut slowly and contemplatively. But deep in his brain he knew in guilt. He had murdered his son. Let his wife scold him, let her bully him. He would never retaliate”.
Ebrima Jallow’s story unveils the perception we may have on married couples. Our ignorance of certain facts leads to misinterpretation yet the couple themselves, in their privacy, know how the relationship between them stands. Things are hard to explain as the saying goes.
Ndanaan has seen many publications before its end in 1976. a lot of Gambians both men and women formarded their contributions to this magasin.the second part on the presentation of the maiden issue will come out next week.