Welcome to people and places. This is a new column that will appear regularly on this platform.
Today, we are taking you to Senegal and a state as if within her territorial boundaries called the republic of Gambia home of Jammeh Yaya, who has done away with the English language as well as commonwealth membership, Gambia, relieving his people the cost associated with learning a foreign language, save compromising African languages and cultures.
So, Senegal and Gambia, or lets call it The Senegambia, both share grits and marabous and have both played hosts to NASA shuttles in fact.
Between 1987 and 2005, Gambia had an emergency landing strip available to NASA.
It was there in case a NASA space shuttle had to make an emergency landing.
I think the terrain is quite suitable and conducive for these activities because the Senegambia are very flat and dry countries with a Sahelian weather none of the cumbersome imisozi (hills) and insina (banana plant) that we got down here in Rwanda.
The daily economic activities are centered mainly in the fishing industry, unfortunately most of their fish stock has been depleted by the foreign trawlers straddling the Atlantic Ocean and so the local fishermen’s future looks uncertain maybe they will consider planting coffee who knows!
An album called “The Gambian Space Program” pays homage to Gambia’s brief ties with space.
Anyway, even the band Mdungu’s funky music, a mixed group from Luxembourg, Spain and the Netherlands, where the group is based, is decidedly African.
Sadly the Gambia, a country without much publicity has been in the news of recent, due to disturbing political developments in the region, and the nation losing a leader and forced to trade him for another one due to a regional military invasion. But we hope this sad event won’t dampen the spirit and the resilience of the Banyegambiya (Gambian).
Senegal, a French colony, shares a common currency with most of her Afro-frenchie sister nations, the CFA, but has started warming up to the English language and might move towards joining the Commonwealth just like Rwanda did a few years ago.
Senegal of recent has made headlines with their Taranga lions at the World Cup as well as fighting controversial wars on behalf of the Arabia in Yemen in the Middle East.
But that’s not all, there is a lot to learn about Senegal, the home of poets and cultural theorist Léopold Sédar Senghor or Cheikh Anta Diop, a historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician, who studied the human race’s origins and pre-colonial African culture. Where else on the continent could we boast of such intellectual treasures?
Let us not forget Sembène Ousmane in articles and reference works, a Senegalese film director, producer and writer. The Los Angeles Times considered him one of the greatest authors of Africa and he has often been called the “father of African film”. This son of a fisherman and former stow away, has lived to be an inspiration for many in the African cinema world.
Senegal has an abundance of storytelling and rich musical culture called Mbalax, meaning “rhythm” in Wolof and there is a lot of it in this birthplace of rap. Most Senegalese and Gambian artists use it in their songs such as the greatest musical icon, Akon, who provides vocals as a featured artist and is currently credited with over 300 guest appearances and more than 35 Billboard Hot 100 songs.
Forbes ranked Akon 80th (Power Rank) in Forbes Celebrity 100 in 2010 and 5th in 40 Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa in 2011. Billboard ranked Akon No. 6 on the list of Top Digital Songs Artists of the decade and is currently doing charity work in Africa. What a region! That’s the Senegambia for you.