SPEECH BY AUTHOR – POET
(Mariama Khan Sabally)
Mr Chairman, honourable Secretary of state for tourism and culture, President Saint Mary’s alumni in The Gambia, Secretary General Saint Mary’s Alumni Gambia chapter, members of the alumni, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
Five years ago in 1998, Mr Louis Sarr asked me to write a poem for speech day at St. Augustine’s Senior Secondary. I responded that I could not do it because I had never written one before. His words to me still echo in my ears. These very words I will repeat to my young brothers and sisters, “you can do it!”
With Mr Sarr’s encouragement I wrote my first poem, I fondly called St Augustines. For him it was a masterpiece. After that, I realized I could and got inspired to write more poetry.
When I joined the SMU extension Programme in 1998, my first course was on poetry taught by a Canadian Poet Mark Silverberg. At first Silverberg would not support my doing the course because he said it was for third year students. I insisted that I would do it. During the course, he was so attentive to me realizing that with help I could do it. This crystallized what little talent I had in the art of poetry.
Prior to this, Baba Galleh Jallow, who encouraged me to write more, started publishing my short stories and poems on the Daily Observer newspaper. Consequently, a kind hearted, selfless and inspiring brother Pa Ousman Senghore helped me both morally and financially. He wanted me to have a neat and orderly collection that I can present for possible funding for publication. What Pa Ousman did for me only God can reward him?
In 2000 through Prof; Terry Whalen from SMU, some of my poems were published in an anthology featuring the works of students from SMU entitled CARDHOUSES and later in the Naswaak Review, a Canadian Journal of literary works. This was remarkable for me. In fact, when I received a cheque from Terry as payment for the published poems, I decided to keep the cheque to show my children the first pay for my poems when they grow up.
The publication of Futa Toro has not been without challenges. Nevertheless, with the zeal to succeed and support from different quarters, Allah has made it possible for me;
The elegant cover of this book is the creation of Mr Njogu Touray, a renowned artist and a dedicated brother; His support I will always remember; Mr Njogu Touray is a special creation so rare to find, so generous with what he knows and what he can do and so helpful in times of need. His powerful artistic touch on the book is like how the stars and the moon enhance the mysterious beauty of the night.
I will always remember Mrs P. Jonhson Principal J.C FYE memorial School who was my former Literature teacher. She gave me a token contribution towards this launching. The amount she gave me, I sincerely value more than a million Dollars. I know it comes from the bottom of her heart.
My father Biran Bakary khan and my Mum Mawuday Saidy deserve special mention this day for their invaluable support and investment both tangibly and intangibly towards the realization of my dreams. My mum is a substitute mother for my children and gives me all the time to do what I want to do. Moreover, she is always there to worry about the children. My father tells me with the help of Allah, there is nothing that can keep me away from being what I want to be in life. He makes true my dreams even before I realize them.
My sister Yassin Khan and brother Bamba Khan, also deserve special mention for they reinforce my confidence in life.
I will not be fair to my conscience, if I do not mention a supportive, caring, understanding and doting husband, father and editor Mr Momodou Sabally. Sabally took his precious time to edit Futa Toro. For some women marriage keeps them down but for me with Momodou in my life, it opens windows of possibilities. Let me say that the children and I are proud of you Momodou.
Finally, I believe God worked it out this way. The launching of Futa Toro coincides with the day of an illustrious birth of a luminary son of Africa and a star of the world.
I would end with a note that:-
In dreaming and waking up
Africa smiles, content of the
Prized fruit of her entrails
The name Nelson Mandela
Will ever grow with the eternal
Spring of hope
That will clean our distress
And pain in this world.
Thank You very much for making this day complete for me with your presence.