26 November 2004

History of Gambian literature

Cherno Jatta (1956- )

Cherno Jatta was born in The Gambia in 1956. After obtaining his A Levels at Gambia High School in 1976, he went to Ghana for a year and then to Great Britain twice (1980-1982 and 1984-1988). He successfully completed his studies with a Master Mariner, Third, Second and First class diplomas. In his professional career, he was associated with different maritime companies and since 1988, Mr Jatta has occupied different positions at The Gambia Ports Authority., he has published, among others, a Handbook for the Seaport Industry. Two manuscripts The Scapegoat and A Man of Destiny, as well as two volumes on maritime issues are waiting to be published.

Sin and Blackmail (1998) is a novel of 112 pages published in Banjul. Mr Johnson, a diplomat and an exemplary father of four, is a victim to his own naivety in a country called Zambezi. We are in 1994, Mr Johnson is serving as middle-man in a gold deal. The gold is nowhere to be seen. The diplomat is the prime suspect for the disappearance of 15 kilos of gold. To crown it all, his domestic life is in turmoil after the discovery of his involvement in a love affair. He finds himself in the middle of another diamond deal worst than the first one. He is saved by a police Inspector, but his domestic life is greatly affected.

Musa Jallow (1963- )


Musa Jallow was born in 1963. After completing his studies at Armitage High School in 1979, he taught for a while before engaging himself in other activities. He is now a self- employed carpenter. He has written a sequel to his first novel - not yet published - and a collection of poems.

Across the Scenes, published in Banjul in 1998, is a novel of 108 pages. The hero, Samba Fye is an outstanding stud
ent from the provinces. Impressed by his performance, his teacher helps him to get a school in the city, Serrekunda, to be more precise. Within few months our young man, influenced by city life, finds himself in the vicious circle of drugs and delinquency. To top it all he is accused of impregnating a teenager.

Baba Galleh Jallow

Baba Galleh Jallow graduated from Fourah Bay College where he obtained a B.A. in History and Political Sciences. Upon arrival in The Gambia, he took up a job with the Daily Observer where he rose to the position of Editor-in-Chief. At the end of the year 2000, he left the Daily Observer. He became a co-founder and Editor in Chief of the newly created Newpaper: The Independent. He is presently working on his Masters’ degree in the USA. In the US, Baba Galleh Jallow has worked as Editor for the Washington DC-based on-line media group AllAfrica.com from November 2000 to June 2003. He is presently pursuing his post-graduate studies at Rutgers University in the New Jersey. He has written more than a hundred short stories and poems. They are yet to be published.

Ultimate Conflict, published in 1999 in Banjul, (later republished in a comprehensive version under the title Dying for My Daughter) is a short novel of 52 pages published. The narrator, Umar tells us about his father’s decision to circumcise his (Umar’s) daught
er who is living up-country with her mother, Amina, in Umar’s family compound. Everything started when he got a phone call from his wife informing of her father-in-law’s decision. Umar, a senior civil servant living in the city, tries to reason with his father. The latter, not wanting to see his authority undermined, invokes tradition, religion… to justify his decision. This book deals with the sensitive question of female circumcision.

Joseph H. Joof (1960- )

Joseph H. Joof was born in 1960. He graduated with a B.A. Honours in Law and Economics (Keele University, U.K.). He then proceeded to the London School of Law. A very successful lawyer, Mr Joof became President of the Bar Association before rising to the position of Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice of the Republic of The Gambia. In addition to The Will, Joseph H. Joof has also published in Banjul in the same year, The Student’s Guide to academic success (52 pages). He has many manuscripts which are yet to be published.

The Will is 116 pages long and published in 1998 in Banjul. It is a novel that tells us about the will of a man named Rex Jon. The five children and the widow of the late Rex Jon are baffled by the existence of an unknown son of the late Rex , a young man aged 28. To their surprise, the huge heritage of the late Rex is not, according to the will, going to be shared equitably. They will soon discover that the will was forged by the executor who happens to be the real father of the young man. This startling revelation will bring endless problems within the family.

Through this introductory phase, more discovery has been made on Gambian literature. A lot of unpublished authors shall be introduced in the following editions.


Charles Thomas

Charles Thomas successfully studied in the USA, UK and India. He holds a degree in English Language and Literature and a Postgraduate degree in Law and Development Aid Management. He has occupied different position in the Civil Service. He has published a play with one act entitled Go Tell it On The Mountain and a script inspired from The Will of Joseph H. Joof.

T
he Memorandum, published in Banjul in 2000, is 75 pages long. It’s a four-act play with 32 actors. The main character, Tijan, is a young public worker who is faced with the almost insurmountable contradiction in his professional, family and religious activities : respect for skill, honesty without political compromise, religious tolerance, are virtually impossible. Thus, Tijan found no other solution but to migrate to Switzerland with Regina, the woman that he loves, in order to try and live according to his ideals.

Michael Hamadi Secka (1963- )

Michael Hamadi Secka was born in 1963 in Basse. After attending Armitage High School, he was trained as a teacher at The Gambia College. A seasoned educationist, he is presently the Principal of Kalagi Upper Basic School. Michael Hamadi Secka has published several poems, articles and brochures for students.

Literature For Gambian Upper Basic Schools was published in Banjul in 2000. It is a collection of literary texts 65 pages long.
The book is divided into three parts: 14 poems by the author, 10 hunting stories collected in Kaur in 1982 and a play in two acts about the trial and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Michael Hamadi Secka’s book clearly shows his desire to talk about issues germane to the socio-cultural environment of his target-audience: the student population.

Siga Fatima Jagne

She is an independent scholar, researcher and
activist. She was Executive Director of the Women’s Bureau until September 2001, and the Vice Chairperson of the University Council, University of The Gambia. She has served as a professor in comparative literature, English and women’s studies at Spelman College in Atlanta and has also taught African literature, the African diaspora and the world, literary theory and criticism. She received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Binghamton, specialising on Women studies, theory and African women’s literature, particulary Mariama Bâ and Bessie Head.

She has edited two books, The African Diaspora and the World (2 volumes) and Post Colonial African Writers : A Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. In addition, she has had her poetry published in WATU, a literary magazine at Cornell University, and in an Anthology of Writings by Women of Colour at State University of New York at Binghamton. Her research interests are numerous and include immigration, women in academia, society development and change, and oral performance poetry.

Unpublished Works

Many Gambian writers, young and old, men and women, produce literary texts (poems, novellas, novels). Unfortunately, as there is no publishin
g house in the Gambia, the only alternative to publishing one’s works is the newspapers. A recent inventory has come up with 1500 poems and novellas published in the Daily Observer and The Independent. This proofs that there exist, among the Gambians, a Gambian literary reality even though it is still in its emergence stage. The women are making more impact than before, and they are gaining recognition. Among these are Mrs Rohey Samba, Mrs Mariama Khan and Mrs Matilda Johnson.

Mrs Rohey SAMBA (1982- )


Mrs Rohey SAMBA was born in 1982. She studied at Ndow’s Comprehensive Senior School She is a young Gambian writer who has written more than hundred poems and several short stories all of which are published in The Independent and The Daily Observer. Most of what she wrote centred on social issues. She received several awards for Search For Young Gambian Writers Awards during award ceremonies organised by US Embassy in the Gambia. One of the poems that won an award, La Conscience, was in French.





Mrs Matilda Alica Cynthia JOHNSON (1958- )

Mrs Matilda Alica Cynthia JOHNSON was born in 1958 in Banjul. She completed a BA honours in Librarianship and Information Studies in June 1988 at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic, which is presently the University of Central England. She is a chartered member of the Library Association LA (UK). Until recently, she was the Senior Librarian at the Management Development Institute (MDI). She has published many literary works in different journals. But her manuscripts on poetry are still unpublished. She will however contribute to The Repeal which is a collection of poems authored with Ms Juga Jaban and Ms Anne Theres Ndong Jatta.

A lot of unpublished works are presently under study and will be mentioned in the subsequent editions.

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