3 February 2011

Gambia: The Roots Festival


Preparations for the 10th edition of the International Roots Homecoming Festival are in high gear. Come this Friday, Africans the world over will converge at the historic town of Juffereh to take stock and reflect on our unpleasant past and reassess themselves to gauge what we have done collectively as Africans to determine a destiny for humanity from our past.

The festival, we are all aware, is a connecting point for Africans and African descendants throughout the world. It serves as a forum for Pan-Africanism and an opportune moment for reflecting on the horrors of slavery and hardship our grand parents went through.

It further provides an opportune moment to reflect upon our common problems as Africans and our common aspirations, draw inspiration from our commonalities in historical and cultural terms, and thus, devise strategies and programmes of action that will be geared towards the full realisation of our potentials as a people and as a continent.

We therefore wish to call on Gambians to turn out in their usual thousands to grace the occasion. In the same vein, we welcome all those Africans who have made it into the country to be part of the journey in search of their roots. The significance of their decision to come home in search of their roots cannot be over-emphasised. History has proven that people without the knowledge of their cultural background are like a tree without root. Such a tree in fact would hardly grow to maturity as it will soon be pulled down by even the mildest of winds.

In the same light, a people ill-informed or scarcely informed about their cultural heritage will be under eternal susceptibility to identity crisis, and the implication of such a situation is that such a people remain constantly at loggerheads with one another and the very essence of their existence. And in this charged generation of incessant cultural discontent, failure to know your culture leaves you highly vulnerable to moral corruption and external exploitation. Participating in the Roots Festival is therefore nothing but part of that complex process of discovering your identity.

This is why the Gambia government under President Jammeh spearheaded the crusade of preserving the country's heritage. His establishment of the Roots Festival demonstrates his determination to safeguard our past, a past that is rich in substance and basis.

The Roots Festival offers the opportunity not only for Gambians who are ignorant of their past to get a glimpse of it, but most importantly, it serves the unique purpose of reconnecting lost generations seperated by distance. For those in the Diaspora, it has become a spiritual journey with a unique potential in bridging the cultural divide that kept a people away from their destiny.

While we wish all and sundry a happy festival in advance, we also hope that the efforts of the concern authorities to make the festival not only successful but also one with a difference will be complemented by all and sundry. We should not lose sight of the fact that the country has seen the power of celebrating culture, in terms of its potential to unify and harmonise a people. So, this biennial event is one that should be maintained with utmost jealousy as it has a great bearing on generations of Gambians to come.

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