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Sulayman Ceesay: A Great Manding Culture Promoter in Sweden

By Yunus S Saliu

A prolific and renowned Gambian culture promoter based in Sweden is Sulayman Ceesay popularly known as Cultural Ambassador.

Sulayman Ceesay who grew up in Bakoteh his place of origin in Kanifing Municipal Council started his cultural promotion not in Sweden where he is based but from home, The Gambia – Smiling Coast of Africa he developed his love for culture as a little boy in Bakoteh through listening and dancing to cultural music of some of the Gambian great musicians in the likes of Lalo Kebba Drammeh, Jaliba Kuyateh, Touray Kunda and “Ifanbodi,” Buba Jammeh, Abdou Kabir, Musa Ngum. Although, then, his favorite artists were Lalo Kebba Drammeh, Jaliba Kuyateh, and Touray Kunda.

“These are the tunes I used to listen to, their message is real and exceptional, deep in culture that you will always learn one or two or more things from each time you listen to their music,” he noted.

However, Sulayman Ceesay became the Culture Ambassador promoting the Manding Culture in Sweden because of his strong belief, respect, and love for culture.

When it comes to Gambian culture, he believes there is more to do to fill the missing gaps thus “every nation has to promote its culture and sell it to the western world for attractions this will let them know who we are and what we represent as a destination,” he said.

Life in the Gambian society is full of cultural activities it is no culture no event, “So I noticed that here in Sweden I introduced our popular Kankurang masquerade for people to reckon with just like other masquerades – Zimba, Hunting so that the younger generation also can learn and recognize the importance of it in our society.”

The Culture Ambassador did not stop his promotion and performances only in Sweden but his performance went beyond, he extended his tentacle up to Denmark, Norway, and other places in the Nordic countries where he normally travels to attend and perform in their cultural festivals.

“Lots of Westerners are attracted to this cultural show because they are interested in different cultures. Their interest is giving me more zeal to go the extra mile in promoting my culture,” he explained.

Promoting culture is not just easy but Sulayman Cessay is doing everything within his reach to raise the Gambia culture high home and abroad especially since he wants it to be deep-rooted in his generation for the next generations to come.

Beyond the Gambia shore, he is the only Gambian based abroad promoting this Manding Culture, one of the main reasons to support him to continue promoting this unique culture.

“Many people are not valuing or proud of their culture but to me, I have been promoting my culture before the arrival of social media and in different ways,” Mr. Sulayman disclosed and explained “When I was a little boy back in 1985 I started listening to this cultural musics in our village in Bakoteh, we have good drummers and singers in likes of Omar Sey, Bakary Marong and others that we play together. They are great people playing the Mandinka drum called ‘Siruoba’ in Bakoteh from them we take drums to attend the naming ceremony and other events.”

The Gambia culture is very challenging, according to him, it lacks support. Talking about support, “it doesn’t mean that you have to give money or only money to people but there are different ways to give support when people are doing good things or representing his or her country like The Gambia. We have great people, heroes, and legends such as Kunta Kinteh, Lalo Kebba Drammeh, and so on but we never celebrate them. But they are all great people in the Gambia’s history.”

The Gambia has rich cultures, he said, and they have to celebrate these cultures and expose them to the world “This is the main reason I always say we need support so that people outside the Gambia will see our Gambian culture. That’s the reason you see before in Sweden here, or in Europe, I am the only Gambian selling the Gambia culture, songs, and tradition. But today you can see a lot of people are bringing the Kankurang.”

Sulayman Ceesay AKA Culture Ambassador is one of the pioneers promoting the Gambia culture abroad “but I cannot do it alone so we need to have more people to support us like the National Centre for Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the government in general because it is our country that we are promoting.”

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Yunus S Saliu

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