Jorna Fatoumata Saho started visiting The Gambia at the age of nine. She got married to a Gambian musician and was able to successfully integrate herself in the Gambian society.
Read our interview with the Dutch girl:
What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself?
Jorna:My name is Jorna Fatoumata Saho, am in my mid-twenties, living in The Netherlands. Am a social worker in an asylum center where am assisting minor boys and girls between the ages of 15 to 18, who came to Holland without their parents or other relatives in search of a better or safer life to live.
Am married to Jali Lamin Sahoand together we have a beautiful baby girl, Mamie Anna Saho, who just turned one, last June.
How and where did you meet Jali Lamin Saho?
(Laughs) I know you would like to know that. We met years ago in The Gambia where I happened to be attending one of his programs in the Senegambia area, together with my mum and dad, when we came over for holidays.
My mum saw him straight away, and of course he caught my attention too. After his program we started talking, and we continued talking for the whole night.
Lamin came to pick us up the next day, where he drove us to the beach and played kora for me and my family the entire day. Ever since that first evening, we are inseparable and the bound we have is amazingly strong, as well as our ever growing love. Lamin is an amazing person, inside and out. Has a pure heart and is always there for me, anytime of everyday. And together with that, he is the most amazing father I could wish for my baby to grow up with. He’s definitely my soul mate.
When did you start visiting The Gambia, and how did you find the process of integrating?
I started coming to The Gambia since I was 9 years old, for holidays, together with my parents. After I met my husband, I visited The Gambia even more often, and decided to do my practical there for school. I worked for 6 months in the psychiatric hospital Campama, then situated in Banjul, when I just turned 18 years old.
Still now am visiting the country regularly, since it holds a very special place in my heart and soul. It might seem strange, but I feel like I belong there. I just love being in The Gambia, walking down the streets, down the markets, sitting at our home chatting with my family, visiting the beach and going to programs, and I feel terribly homesick when am not in the country.
Integrating has been great, since I have the most wonderful in-laws. They welcomed me warm heartedly since I first stepped into their compound and I am thankful for that every day. Especially my mother- in-law, the late Mamie Sosseh (May Allah grant her highest Jannah and may her soul remain to rest in perfect peace). She was very close to me and my family and was always there for me. She was like my own mum.
I think integrating in Gambian society also depends on your own efforts. My interest in Gambian culture, religion, languages and traditions goes a long way. I learned a lot throughout the years and at this point, it feels like it’s my own culture, Gambia sama rew la!
I converted to Islam, follow up the tradition, trying to speak local languages, I cook Gambian food almost every day, I am up to date with the latest mbalax and afro-manding songs, and the funny part is that it doesn’t take any effort; It’s who I am.
How did you become part of your husband’s career?
To be honest am not a part of my husband’s career. Am just very supportive like a good wife should always be for her spouse, am his biggest fan. Lamin is doing great and is working on a new studio album at this moment. Music isn’t the easiest industry. Gambians should try to support their own talents before cherishing the ones from Senegal. It’s a great thing to support your own culture and people.
What do you think are the reasons why Europeans want to settle in The Gambia?
The Gambia is a stress-free zone. I think Europeans like to settle for the nice weather, sweet people, nice food and easy-going atmosphere. It’s so different than in Europe, where everything has to be on time, appointments and by rush. People can start to breathe again once they stepped feet in The Gambia.
Tell us about your business ventures.
Two months ago I started Chocolate Sisters, together with one of my friends, Cristel, in Holland. A fashion label which includes baby and kid swear, bags, baby slings and carriers and accessories of all kinds with an African touch. Am about to launch adult clothing too, very soon. All items are made with ankara/wax/bazin and other African fabrics, and all handmade (designed and sewn) by me and my friend. It feels great to promote the use of African fabrics in daily fashion, and to get them known in Europe.
As you can tell, I am a busy lady (laughs).But what a great feeling to know that kids in Europe and in The Gambia are walking around in my outfits! My clients mostly come from Sweden, UK and Holland. Am so grateful for all the support and prayers coming from the Gambian society. It truly melts my heart!
Are your products available in The Gambia?
My outfits to be sold in the fashion shops will be available and affordable for Gambians. Wigs, cosmetics, shoes, bags and clothing for men and women.
Do you speak any local language?
Waaw, degg na tuti Wolof. Mangi try sah(laughs).Since my hubby is Mandinka, that should be first on my list, but I found Wolof easier to follow, understand and learn. Lamin’s mum is Wolof, which made me to try and learn.
What about your daughter, how Gambian is she?
Cheeeei, Mamie Anna…(laughs). No, this girl isn’t Dutch. The only thing she got from me is half of her colour. She becomes wild and starts dancing and singing when she hears drumbeats and kora (our jali muso!!). She likes rice with spicy sauces, loves warm weather and was so happy when she visited The Gambia for the first time! She was all smiles every day!
We are raising her up with her Gambian heritage, which to us as her parents is very important. We want Mamie to learn about her culture, languages and to be proud of her background and African blood. She’s blessed to be Gambian.
Any final words?
I want to thank the Gambian society for their support, prayers and sweet words I happen to receive. Am very grateful for that!
Remain positive, keep uplifting each other. Jealousy is a crime, belie walie. Let’s support each other and quit praying for someone’s downfall. Life is too short, so just show each other some love!
And thanks WOG for your time and interest. Keep up the good works, Yalna la Yallah japaleh