By Yunus S Saliu
In what can be described as a fulfilling year, the Director General of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has described the year ended 2022 as a fruitful and engaging year for the National Centre for Arts and Culture, and all other groups under the center.
The year engagement and achievements, he explained, started with the fourth edition of the Kankurang Festival in Janjanbureh, “it is a high profile event and it was a very successful festival organized by the NCAC, Georgetown community, GTHI, GTBoard, and other partners. The edition was graced by Her Excellency Dr. Isatou Touray, the former Vice President of the Gambia, the Governor of CRR at the time of the festival, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Honourable Hamat NK Bah, and different dignitaries within and neighbouring countries.”
In the year under review, he said, the NCAC started implementing a two-year project funded by UNESCO to inventory the Gambia Intangible Cultural Heritage, which has never happened before until now with the support of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage.”
He also outlined achievements made in respect of Gambian artists during the year which include book launching, lots of films premiering, theatre productions, and art exhibitions “all these have gained momentum in the year. So, it is an eventful year as far as art and culture are concerned.”
Another very important and impressive step forward, he noted, the “ratification of the 2001UNESCO Convention of Underwater Cultural Heritage by the Gambia with the support of our Honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture – Hamat NK Bah and the support of the National Assembly Select Committee and Gambia legislature with our partners at the UNESCO National Commission. This will help us to protect the Underwater Cultural Heritage in this country.”
The achievements did not limit to the above because “this year NCAC was able to complete the digitalization of the oral archive in Fajara after four years with the help of the University of Hamburg and the Gerda Henkel Foundation and we marked the successful completion with a weeklong symposium on the theme: Gambia Heritage Goes Digital and was well attended by scholars across the world.”
In addition to NCAC achievements, the UNESCO-ASCHBERG programme is about operationalising the National Endowment Fund for the Gambia Arts and Culture sector. The project and the draft were validated on 28th December 2022 and also the successful conduct of the Miss Gambia Pageant was held on 30th December 2022 after twenty-two years break, “and we had successfully had different in-house training sessions for our staff among these are anthropology and ethnography training conducted by professors from Spanish Universities. And the staff also benefitted from some other training from the heritage management organization on the interpretation of heritages, and conservation of heritages. And also different competitions were organized and hosted by a group of young artists led by ML Sowe, a book fair by the Young Writers Association of The Gambia supported by NCAC.”
He stated, “this includes the ongoing rehabilitation of the Mungo Park Obelisk site, the Kunta Kinteh Island jetty supported by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) almost completed.
“Another important aspect has to do with the renovation of our site the Mungo Park Obelisk site is under rehabilitation, the work started and is going on, the jetty at Kunta Kinteh Island is almost completed as you know it was damaged by the heavy rain in July 2022 but with support from UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC).”
Challenges in 2022
He lamented the center’s challenges for the year included capacity building, and increases in tasks and responsibilities as the arts sector became one of the most nationally eventful units which its presence that everyone “wants us to present in all the regions, But we are working on that as we are thinking of it this 2023 by having a manager in Mansakonko, Lower River Region in addition to our office in MacCarthy, Wassu and in Albreda. These are challenges and we already earmarked solutions to them.”
Expectation in 2023
“Our first expectation for the New Year has to do with updating the management plan for Kunta Kinteh Island legacy, the UNESCO Heritage sites. It needs to be updated, completion of the Mungo Park Memorial Obelisk rehabilitation work with the site museum, mausoleum known as Sir Dawda Memorial Museum, and Centre at the National Assembly (under construction). And also we are planning the International Cultural Festival for MacCarthy Island known as Georgetown. All these are urgent matters in our tray,” he outlined the centre’s expectations for the year.
Although, he added, in 2022 the centre planned to upgrade not only Mungo Park but other places like Musa Molloh Memorial Tomb, and the Berending Crocodile Pool “but unfortunately, so far, we were able to start the work at the Mungo Park Memorial. And as per the recommendation of the TRRC Arch 22nd should be renamed and not only rename but turn into a memorial for the victims of the ex-President Jammeh era all these and more are our expectations to achieve in this year 2023.”