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NCAC, UNESCO Conclude Two-Day ICH Community-Based Inventorying Fieldwork

By Fatou Dahaba

Oyster Women At Work

The National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in collaboration with the UNESCO Office in Dakar, on Thursday, 15th December 2022 concluded a two-day Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Community-Based Inventorying fieldwork after visiting different sites across the Banjul City Council, Kanifing Municipal Council, and West Coast Region.

The visited places for inventorying during the two-day fieldwork visit at the mentioned areas include Bakau, Banjul, Jeshewang, Sukuta, Lamin, and Busumbala.

The fieldwork was among the activities for the Intangible Cultural Heritage Community-Based Inventorying Training which kicked off on the 7th and ended 16th of December 2022 in Banjul, The Gambia.

And this part of the activities was meant to help them test some of the inventory tools to collect information as well as to interact with communities. During the exercise, the ICH trainees for the community-based inventorying exercise explored the cultures within the aforementioned communities and what they are likely to do in the future, and it marked the foundation of future inventory in different communities in the Gambia.

Among other places visited, the team visited Oyster Women Association on their Oyster Farm in Lamin, West Coast Region, and discussed how they are safeguarding their farms for the younger generation, the importance of oyster farming, how the process is done, and the cultural history of the farming, among others.

Susan Samba, an oyster farmer said oyster is good and healthy for the body and it is a medicine that can cure some ailments in the body “and our forefathers depend on it as their only food. They were healthy with no complaints of pain.”

She explained that the heritage behind oysters is from the river and that they don’t want the culture to die but instead to pass it on to generations to come.

Kumba Jassey, among the oyster farmers, said she learned the process from her stepmother who usually takes her along to see how the process was done until she could do it herself.

According to her, she transmitted it to her children through direct involvement which is to go with them and see how she does it as well.

However, Kumba noted that the work is difficult and tiring ranging from harvesting, accessing firewood, and selling the final product which is why many children don’t want to be involved in the hassle.

Mary Sambou, another oyster farmer said people usually belittle the work they do and as a senior school graduate her friends sometimes laugh at her because they think she could do something better.

She highlighted one of the there biggest challenges which is to add value to their products because they don’t have the capacity. “When you visit most of the supermarkets all the oysters they sell are from foreign countries, this is because we don’t add value which is why our oysters cannot stay for long,” she explained.

Oyster farming in The Gambia is completely dominated by women who harvest, process, and market the oysters.

Heap of Oyster Shells

The yearly production of mangrove oysters in The Gambia is estimated at 7000 tonnes in shell, according to the analysis conducted by FISH4ACP with the Institute of Social Research and Development (ISRAD).

Emily Drani, UNESCO ICH Facilitator said the whole exercise was meant for the ICH local facilitator trainees to be able to inventory the intangible cultural heritage in The Gambia in the future.

Emily who went with a team to Bakau on Wednesday said she had the opportunity to see the community that was showcasing the baby wrapper which is seen as an important item for nursing mothers in The Gambia.

“The cultural significance of it was interesting because it got a specific shape and design but also attached to the value of bonding between the mother and the child, the security of the child and this is across Africa (wrapper) even though the shape is different. Another significant thing was that they perform rituals around introducing the wrapper and food was cooked at the road crossing, all these traditions are interesting and exciting for me to see how important the baby wrapper is in the community,” she noted.

On the importance of safeguarding the ICH for the younger generation, she said it’s important because it is associated with cultural identity, values, beliefs, knowledge, the perspective of the world, the skills to make things, and craftsmanship. And in short, it defined culture and is passed down from generation to generation.

More so, she said it is an important part of the heritage that when you want the next generation to be a better Mandinka, Wollof, or Fula all this is defined by culture. Therefore it’s important to safeguard it which can be done through the documentation by showing videos and exhibitions and by adding it to the education curriculum.

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Yunus S Saliu

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