01 December 2004

Ndaanan - First Gambian literary magazine (cont)

The inaugural issue (part 2)

The first part of the presentation of Ndaanan’s inaugural issue left out some information of great importance. It was mentioned that Ndaanan was a Gambian literary production by the then Gambia Writer’s Club and which aimed to provide an outlet for all creative Gambian Writing. The editorial board comprised of the editor, Mr Swaebou Conateh and the members of the editorial: Dr Lenrie Peters, Mr Gabriel J. Roberts and Mr Hassan Jagne. The editorial assistants were the late Charles Jow, Ms Esther Sowe and Dr Wally Ndow. Mr Hassum Ceesay Sr served as Advertisement and Circulation Manager. In order to sustain its financial expenses, the Magazine offered to make adverts at the following rates: £10 or D50.00 per page, £5 or D25.00 per half page and £3.10 or D17.50 for the quarter page. The cover page was offered at £12.10 or D62.50. The subscription rates for the magazine were fixed thus: D1 biannually, D2 annually and D2.50 if to be sent by airmail. On the back page of the first issue was written the following:

5 Good Reasons Why You Must Read And Support Ndaanan

1. It Is New
2. It Is Full Of Creative And Entertaining Works By Gambians
3. It Is Designed To Encourage Gambian Writers
4. It Has Variety
5. It Is Full Of Promise

It was certainly in Ndanaan that many Gambian writers started publishing their own works. The first story of the inaugural issue, A Man At Fault by Ebrima Jallow, was presented with some excerpts in the last edition. The second story, as was presented in this issue, was The BoyWho Sees Visions written by Swaebou Conateh.
The story begins with a boy leaving a Mauritanian shop with two mints (sweets), which he will jealously guard so as not to share it with any of his friends, brothers or sisters. He is prepared for anything if only he will not share his mints. He has gone through horrible experiences, such as quickly chewing the mints and swallowing them “ which climbs up to his nostrils with that tangy-tarty-punch which pained the nostrils.” As the boy sits at the compound gate alone munching his mint, his sister calls him and he hurriedly spits his deformed mints on his palm and later puts them in his pocket. Inside the compound he finds a large crowd gathered around a “fly-whisk man”. That was not the first time he met the man as they had a curious affair two months earlier. In the centre is a bowl filled with water in which is placed a transparent bottle. The boy is asked to look intently in the bowl and answer to the questions asked. He will be the only one to see visions inside the bowl, which he will narrate to the crowd gathered there. Exhausted after the experience, and as if he was in a trance, he quickly leaves the crowd under their cheers to find a secluded place to finish munching his mints. The boy who sees visions has no name in the story.
The third story is entitled Mboka’s Manuscript written by E. Midnight (pen name).
A strange philosophical story about a manuscript written by David, an Indian from British Guiana and living with Gambian friends in England, was given to Kemo Sanneh. Kemo recounts how he came to know David and what the content of the Manuscript was about. David-David Sunil Zulficar Seegobin is nicknamed “Mboka” by his Gambian friends. “Mboka’s interest and devotion to what he called ‘Third World Politics’ became almost a religion. He gradually became less and less interested in his studies and quite frequently would keep away from classes to read philosophy and assorted political literature. (…) And now this manuscript – the last indication of the cumulative effects of five years of tension and hate were really telling heavy blows on Mboka’s psych. He was really going off his head.” Below is reproduced the full content of the manuscript:

“I don’t know you and you don’t know me, and may be you don’t want to know me. You have had sessions like this before. You have heard things people told you here before - I have neither the desire nor the goodwill to tell you these same things – but will proceed as though you were in the privacy of your own WCs. I was not called here to clown for you – every one amongst you could entertain himself if he weren’t here. The mere fact that you are here means something. I will not explain the fact of my being here”

“We face one another across the hostile air, you waiting to hear and go away feeling the ordinary people look at you and whisper “They are from a meeting” and knowing you are feared and respected by them and knowing there ought to be no fear and no justification for their respect. As I said we face one another across this hostile air, you waiting to hear and maybe to criticize and me half-staring at some of you. Yet we all feel we have to go on. Some of you have left the underserved comforts of your living rooms and bathtubs to be here. I have come here because I am a speaker and had to. None of you are really happy, none of us are in the place he feels he might want to be. Many of you feel there must be a better place for you than the one you are occupying now. The fact is, you are wrong.

“I say this looking at all of you now. You are wrong and I am powerless to add or subtract from that fact. You came originally wrong and you have been getting worse in every way from the day you were born. Especially since the day anyone told you were very important people. There is in fact no hope for some of you and there never was. Even if some of you had never been born there would have been no hope for you. It was hopeless whether you arrived here or not. Yet you all arrived in your very important persons, you got here, you are here in your importance. And that’s the trouble.”

“You will not accept your non-importance vis-à-vis the things that really matter i.e. how relevant you are to the trends and movements of the issues that concern the majority of the people living in your country? Yet this is the only important thing there is under the circumstances. Yet you reject them, and why – well I will tell you why. Because you have nothing better to do or be than the person you are now, occupying the particular chain you now occupy, and which you are not improving by occupying. You have improved nothing since you came into this situation. You have tried to improve yourselves, of course, or things connected with yourself, but you have only finished in making everything worse. You have only finished in making yourself worse than when you were called here, worse than what you were when you were born, worse even than what you were before you entered the Hall.

“There is in short, no hope for you as I said earlier. You are badly off and getting more so, and sadly enough when you get in the worse shape of all so that you think you will not able to go on for another second, the road ahead for some of you is still worse yet. For there is no hoe for some of you even when things get so impossibly terrible that you will kill yourselves. For that is no solution. In death you will only begin where you left off, but naturally in worse shape.

“Yet you continue to sit here watching me like lobotomised cats but still send no message to your twitching feet. You twitch as you listen to me but you hear nothing. You have never heard anything.

“And now you are waiting for the message, the solution to all my speech. You have been thinking “What he says is terrible and frightening, but now will come the good part, the part with any meaning at all.” I have no good part to give you, my only message if it can be called one, and I do not call it one – I call it nothing. My message to you is there is no message. You have made a terrible mistake of coming to the Hall tonight to hear me, yet you would have made a mistake no matter what you did tonight for the simple reason that you have no choice but to make mistakes, because you have no plans.

“You have doomed because you will go on trying to be other than what you are therefore you succeed only in continuing as you have been. There is no choice. You are listening with your pathetic toad faces because you know you are not getting my words. Give up trying, dear auditors. Don’t try to be improved by my speech because you will not have to go ahead with everything. And I know how weary you are of going ahead. Oh don’t I know!.

“You are beginning to look at your watches meaning you have stood all you can for one night. I do not pity or sympathize with you and at the same time, I do because you do not belong here, as I said earlier. You belong to your nocturnal live and you nocturnal cars and nightclubs and your comfortable toilet seats. Nobody belong here, and how could my coming be a success? Yet in a sense it is ladies and people , for the simple reason that I have prepared no speech and have no thought about what I am saying to you. I know it would be hopeless. I know when I saw your faces that you would only listen to what to say to yourself in your bathrooms or laundry places. You knew everything anyhow and have continued to improve on what has already been done. Hence you are hopeless. I have talked here tonight in the hope that you would not hear, because if you didn’t you might not so thoroughly disgust yourselves, and therefore me. But you have sat here with exactly the amount of rapport or lack of it that I expect from the human toad. You have been infinitely repulsive to me and for that I thank you, because by being infinitely repulsive you have continued continuity and what more could any speaker ask?

“How could I say anything to you then, but to return to you the stale air which you have been breathing into my face all evening. I will return it to you therefore, not in flatulence, that would be to flatter you, but in air. And thank you, I mean this. I thank you one and all, ladies and people, I take pleasure in my activity though I knew you do not, are not expected to take any, and I would be miserable if my pleasure became real to you. And farewell or rather good-bye, because we will meet again. Come whenever you can, I am always here.”

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