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The Tears of the Traditional Bantaba

By Alassan Njie (Malcolm X Jr)

Well, it is quite convincing that a Bantaba is traditionally known to be a place where people of integrity, honor, and exceeding intellectual wisdom meet to discuss yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

My grandmother used to tell me that elders are not companions of God, but they have been with God for a long time. If all they know could be put on paper, there will be no space for people to live on Earth. That is the reason we live with the saying that when an elder dies, a library gets burnt, and what an old man can see while sitting down a young boy can’t see while standing on Mountain Everest. 

Everything about the ancient Bantaba used to be knowledge and wisdom. The elders teach lessons about real life. They predict and interpret natural phenomena and get foresight accurately. They can tell you all the wisdom embedded in the tales, legends, and myths that are directly or indirectly connected to their lives. The Bantaba was a home where meetings were held, decisions are made, information is disseminated, and treaties were signed. A place where men talk like men and act like men. At the Bantaba, no one murmurs, no one whispers, no one eavesdrops, no one gossips, no one slanders, no one backbites, and no one snitches. All that is said and agreed upon is binding. I wish those days are never gone.

Alas! Now, that the silk cotton tree that used to be at the heart of our village is no more, there I see a never die tree in the middle of our village. It is so much soft, weak, and transparent that it has only a small area it provides shade, yet they call it the Bantaba tree. That is the beginning of the conspiracy and hypocrisy. When the village elders gather there, some will be in the shade, and others in the sun. When will these two groups arrive at a point of solidarity for a common purpose? Once the center of hope, unity, and hospitality is now the hub of the isms and schisms teaching no lessons.

It is disheartening that quarrels are as common as ‘Yes sir’ in the military camp because where two elders have their words across each other there a war of words will ensue and eventually cause a brawl. The Bantaba has become a place to empty grudges and grievances among the people. As simple as mentioning someone’s name can cause a whole day brawl that would creep into their lineage for eternity.

What Has The World Become?

The Bantaba now is seen as the home of gossip and rumor-mongering. The headquarters of ‘Radio Kankan’ with unethical journalists broadcasting fairy tales.

When will the generation that would transplant a new silk cotton tree and care for it to germinate and develop strong roots and branches that could stand the storm come to life? I may assume that generation will come in the hereafter. God the Almighty, please, redirect mankind to the traditional Bantaba. We have lost the value of our culture and tradition to someone we don’t know. 

Papa said that he longed for those days. Mama said that she longed for those days. The Bantaba days, please, don’t go and leave us immaculately dressed yet naked.


Yunus S Saliu

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