International Roots Homecoming Festival to be Revived
Sheikh Omar Jallow, Director for Creative and Performing Arts and Culture, at the National Center for Arts and Culture on Thursday said the ‘one time most famous and biggest festival’ which is the International Roots Homecoming Festival that died out in recent years will be held in December 2020.
said the festival that used to be held community-wide will be in a different format this time around as it is going to be a national festival that will cover the whole country starting from the Kombos down to Basse in the Upper River Region.
He said they have laid down a format on how the festival will be held by strategically looking into the six administrative areas in the Gambia to see what cultural relevance that community or area has and enact it into the programs of the festival.
“This is good news; as the Tourism Minister Hamat Bah has already setup a committee, and in fact the first inaugural meeting will take place tomorrow”. Jallow said.
He said they have chosen the most cultural relevant event that takes place in the Kanifing Municipality every year called the ‘Open Mic Music Festival’ which is the biggest musical festival in the area.
This event he said is of good product for the International Roots Homecoming Festival and it will help sustain the event as, it is held now in two days and the organizers have started facing some challenges in sustaining it.
“We have seen that this year the organizers of the open Mic have to face some challenge; because it is held in two days now, so we decided to take one out of the two days to be part of theInternational Roots Homecoming Festival; So the Open Mic Music Festival will live on forever”, Jallow assured.
In Banjul he said, the most significant cultural event is the Hunting display called “Egereh” which is caved as the Banjul cultural night normally held in January 1st each year; will be day two of the festival. He said this event which is normally held in Pizaral Street will be moved to the Independence Drive which is the festival avenue in Banjul.
Day three will be a boat trip starting from the Denton Bridge in Banjul to explore the historical site along the beautiful River Gambia. The crew will sail to Fort Bullen in Barra which is in the North Bank Region and to Juffureh where they will witness the ‘Juffureh Roots Festival’.
“From there, we will sail to the Lower River Region the 4th day for the ‘Kwinella Farantamba Festival’; because it is a festival that has a niche market. Their niche market is where the ‘Korings, the Mansa Musa, the Kelefaa Mansa; the big heroes of the Gambia that are not celebrated”. Jallow said, “This festival is now celebrating them”.
He further explained that the ‘Kwinella Farantamba Festival’ is been done in a grand style as there’s Calvary, horse-riding and lots of cultural display that will shows the life our heroes used to live and how they were able to tackle colonialism and how they also established Islam in the Sub-region.
The 5 days he said will be at Jangjangbureh in the Central River Region were they will also witness the ‘Jangjangbureh Cultural Festival’. The 6th day will be in Basse in the Upper River Region were they will witness the traditional music of the Gambia using the traditional musical instrument like the kora, balafone, Riti, Halam and others; whereas the 7th day the crew will travel by land using bush taxis to explore the nature from Basse to Kanilai Village for the ‘Futampaff’ which is the Jola initiative will be held for the West Coast Region.
“We are using this festival as a healing method to reconcile the difference especially in the Fonis; we need them, they are part of The Gambia and Kanilai has the infrastructure and the cultural heritage to host this festival”, He revealed, “so we are going to revive the ‘Futampaff’ for the 7th day and then we come back to Banjul where we will have the fashion and the beauty pageant day and the Gala Dinner to end the International Roots Homecoming Festival and bid farewell to our guests for the festival”. Jallow concluded.
Initiated in 1994 by the government of former President Yahya Jammeh when it was initiated as Homecoming, the International Roots Festival is usually held around May with great fanfare and cultural activities, educational symposium, musical concerts and historical tours around the country. The festival gives chances to African living in the Diaspora to connect with their roots and African heritage.
By Adam Drammeh.