Read below our interview with freelance journalist, Fanta Jarjussey:
What’s On-Gambia: Tell us briefly about yourself.
Fanta: I just turned 30, which most people can’t believe but I am. A lot of people hide their age and don’t want people to know how old they are, but I am proud to finally turn 30.
I was born in The Gambia, but was raised in London, UK. I left The Gambia permanently when I was 9 years old and I didn’t return till in my late 20s. This is why it surprises me when some Gambians are offended when I say I am more British cultured. They shouldn’t be offended, because as much as I am British, I am also a proud Gambian.
Which Jarjussey family do you belong to?
My granddad is Saikouba Jarjussey. He was a chief in Jarra. My dad is Phoday Jarjussey, former permanent secretary at the Office of the President in the first republic. My dad is one of the most educated men in The Gambia. He got a scholarship to the University of York when he finished school which was rare in those days. After spending time in England, he eventually returned to The Gambia and was one of the most influential men of his time, which is why he is still highly respected to this day.
What are the most valuable lessons your dad taught you?
One of the biggest lessons my dad ever taught me is to be always honest and genuine and live within my means.
Another valuable lesson my dad taught me, which I have carried with me all my life, is to fight with a pen and not with my fists.
Where is your dad living now?
He’s still in England.
Tell us about your mum also.
Oumie Njie! My mum is from a Wollof family. Her father was Dodou Njie, who was a doctor during the war. My mum’s brother is Wandeh Njie, one of the most famous goalkeepers in the history of Gambian football. So I came from a very inspirational family from both sides.
What is your educational background?
I went to school in The Gambia until I was 9 years old then I finished my primary and secondary education in England, as well as my A-Levels and Degree.
Which university did you attend?
I went to the University of Surrey, where I studied Media and Cultural Studies. Not only did I study media, but my degree also included social sciences like Sociology and Psychology.
Are you a British citizen?
Yes, not long after arriving in 1994.
Do you consider yourself Gambian?
Yes, I am but there a lot of things about me that are not very Gambian like.
As a female, it is frowned upon to be outspoken and to have alpha-male qualities. I feel like a lot of Gambians hide behind the word ‘sutura’ to hide the truth. I am not saying you need to expose every aspect of your life because we should all have some privacy. However, I have met some of the most pretentious and fakest people ever in the Smiling Coast.
In a positive light, I have also met some of the most hardworking and genuine people in Gambia.
You once said you are more British than you are Gambian. Explain.
Culturally, I do sometimes feel like I am more British than I am Gambian – that is no disrespect to my Gambian heritage. But I have been more influenced by British society and that is the fact.
Do you speak any local language?
I can speak Wollof. Unfortunately, I can’t speak Mandinka even though that is what my father is but I am willing to learn.
You also once said that you would never date a Gambian…
I didn’t say that, those were not my words. What I said was due to past experiences, I am not sure if I want to date a Gambians again. Not all Gambian men are bad. However, let’s be honest, it is very common in The Gambia for men to be with multi women at the same time whether they are married or single. That is just something I noticed.
How many Gambian men did you date?
In all my life? Three.
Tell us about your activities in the Gambian media and entertainment industry.
I didn’t even know that The Gambia had a budding industry to this capacity until my visit in December 2013. I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best in the country like Black Lynx and Absolute Entertainment.
But when you first arrived you were doing PR for Gee. What happened to that?
Yes, I was and he is very talented. However, I am a freelancer and that means I am not tied to one company or artist.
You are now back in the UK after a long stay in The Gambia. Any fond memories?
I have many fond memories of the time I spent there. I am not saying that it was all perfect, because I had some hard times too, especially adjusting to the way of life. My fondest memories are definitely working with Absolute, Black Lynx, Banjul Night Live and What’s On-Gambia. On a personal level it’s definitely spending time with family and enjoying the tourist season.
Did you make any new friends?
The word friend is used very loosely sometimes and the older you get the less friends you have. It is a part of life but I have some very good childhood friends here and have made some new ones, they know who they are…! I especially want to say the biggest thank you and extend my gratitude to Haddy Faye. Wagan, Xmyles, Shyboy, Afrodeezy, Moe Black and Alieu Khan. Even though it is business that brought me to these people, they have become inspirational and admirable to me. For that, I salute them!