OPINION: Gambian Cultural Week or Wollof Cultural Week?

Written by Saul Sarr

Yaram Arts over the weekend wrapped up a cacophony of events dubbed “Gambia Cultural Week/Senegambia Cultural Week".  

CEO Njok Malick Jeng and his sidekicks failed to recognize that The Gambia is not a monocultural nation. Year-on-year they failed to incorporate events to celebrate Manjako culture, Fula culture, Jola culture, Mandinka culture, etc. The only culture celebrated every year is that of Banjul, and by default Wollof. 

Lie Colley, a member of the organizing committee of the Gambian Cultural Week in Norway was recently quoted by the Standard Newspaper saying, “We have year in and year out brought Bukarabou groups, Gesseh groups and Mandinka groups among others to showcase The Gambia and its diverse people and cultures."

 Last year, the Gambian cultural weekend in Seattle was a true representation of our diverse cultures. Mocked-up Serers Maidens wrapped up in traditional attire were allocated time to entertain the audience, same for Mandinkas, Wollofs, Jolas, Fulas and all other tribes.

Perhaps what Mr Jeng should do is consult originators of the cultural week/weekend for orientation about the idea behind it. 

They are only interested in numbers. Speaking of which, they were faced with dwindling numbers this year. Those who went to last year’s and this year’s events can attest to this fact. Don’t listen to anything they say to the contrary.

For weeks, they plastered their posters all over Facebook with misleading inscriptions. They knew full well that ST will be in Italy doing his thing, but they misleadingly mentioned him as a guest artist. Why would ST fly to London for a 10-minute cameo when he can do his own all-night show in Italy? One thing about the boy is that he is not short of confidence and he truly believes in himself.

Still, on posters, and perhaps out of ignorance, they claimed to be celebrating their 10th edition when it was actually 11th. The way events are counted is different. 


Over the years, allegations of squandering money secured from the UK government agencies for the cultural week were not really responded to by Mr Jeng. Here are a few:

-  It is alleged that over the years, organizers received a substantial amount of money from Hackney and Newham Councils for the cultural week. The people on whose behalf they secured the money were never told how much was received and how it was spent.

-  It is alleged that over the years, organizers also received a substantial amount of money from the Arts Council England for the cultural week. The people on whose behalf they secured the money were never told how much was received and how it was spent.

-  It is alleged that the parks used for the Sunday event were usually secured for free from local Councils, but people are charged to have stalls there to sell or promote a cause. 

-  Yaram Arts is registered as a non-profitable organization (charity), but have been engaged in profit-making events.  They should charge people to break-even not to make profit. And if it is true that they’ve been receiving money from the UK government agencies to organize these events, why are they charging people at all? 

To conclude, I am not saying any of these allegations are true, they remained just that, allegations. As the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire and the fact that they remained tight-lipped lends credence to these allegations. 

This year though they have been rocked by an allegation of stealing by Yunus Hydara. He alleged that he was locked out for Saturday's Wally Secka show because he came after midnight.

Yaram Arts did, however, make a late post on Saturday urging people to arrive early as 02 main gates will be closed at midnight. They also had lots of unsold tickets to sell. Early birds who obliged were wrathful as they had to wait for four hours before Wally took to the stage (after 2 am local time) and played just a few songs.