25 January 2012

Gambia: Back to Africa Festival in Batokunku

It is a weeklong big ongoing festival jamboree in Batokunku - West Coast Region, The Gambia where some hundreds of tourists joining the citizens to celebrate the 'Back to Africa Festival' 2012 organized by Neil Fraser a.k.a. Mad Professor, the proprietor of ARIWA Records Company - UK.

This remarkable festival celebration started right from the airport where the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) officials and the organizer welcomed the over 400 visitors including some reggae stars and DJs like Macka B, Greg George, Mafia, Fluxy, Tony Williams, McPullish, Frankie Paul, Kim Pin, Yvonee Akeba, Papa Levi, DJ Danny, Sugar Dread among other at the foot of the Gambia International Airport, Banjul last week Thursday.

Reason for this is to allow the visitors acquaint with the environment. Also it is one of the ways and traditions Gambia people use to show their hospitality to their visitors. At the same time welcoming visitors to the country is another way of preserve the country's already established identity.

This event was tagged 'Back to Africa,' according to the organizer, due to the fact that in the 70s 'back to Africa' was a common slogan. So "as teenagers of the 70s, we rebelled against parents and western views about Africa which was very bad. They thought Africans are without cloth, that Africans eat people; politically they thought whites are beautiful and blacks are ugly. So we kids of the 70s kicked against this idea and said 'black is beautiful,' From there they started to love our culture and heritage, our structure, dark skin, big nose, hair and lifestyles and above all Africa has the best of everything you can think of."

On Friday, 20th January 2012 at the official opening of the event at Batokunku village, the Minister of Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, encouraged the organizer and his collaborator to join hand with her Ministry because "The Gambia as you know, has institutionalized two major international festivals, that are held here in the Gambia on a biennial basis, i.e. the International Roots Festival under my purview and the Kanilai International Festival, hosted by His Excellency the President of the Republic of the Gambia at his home village of Kanilai."

And since we are one family, and indeed in a partnership for the advancement of The Gambia, Minister Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie wish and requested Neil Fraser and his collaborators including esteemed brothers and sisters from the Diaspora present at the event to work with her and her Ministry for the promotion, publicity and development of the two festivals that were mentioned above as this will enable lot of the artists to participate in their subsequent editions.

This weeklong Back to Africa Festival celebration was marked with different programs like conversation under the baobab tree workshop with series of topics like 'Is Gambian music ready for the world?' Selling black music to the world, the role of African music in this millennium, African instruments from drums to the kora etc.

The numerous shows include Mad Professor testing, testing 1-2-3! Dub shows tester, roots reggae bar party, spit a lyric, Roots session, Naja vibes, Macka B, Dub and lovers rock beach party, Back to Africa dub show, cultural show. So also are different competitions like Miss Natural Beauty contest, fashion show and some other side attractions.

It is a series of weekender events in a variety of exotic places where the music menu is dub, Roots, lovers' rock and rare groove soul. The festival has emerged to shape what not for only the oldies but also a festival for the new generation. This will influence the migrants to adore, and enjoy our culture and heritage. This as well will influence them to develop their Diasporas experiences through interaction with the people and events in their new environment.

Back to Africa Festival will no doubt promote peace, intercultural dialogue, togetherness and exposure of our esteemed country and as well expose our artists and cultural activities beyond the shore of Africa. This would happen hence some hundreds that arrived for this historic festival that coincided with celebration of 10th anniversary of ARIWA Records Company run and managed by the organizer, majority numbers are from UK and the rest parts of the world were here to share their views and spread the message of peace and hospitality coupled with the unity and intercultural harmony of the Gambia.

This is a clear indication as the Minister said it is good to see the Diasporas returning home for a visit. The Gambia and by extension Africa is no doubt the home of their ancestors and as theirs. It is an indisputable historical fact and as a resilient people, Gambians have weathered all storms and have remained strong while recognizing the umbilical bonds that bind Africans on the continent with those in the Diaspora.

As one people and one family that share a common history with diverse cultural characteristics that exemplify the cultural unity in diversity of a homogenous African family, the Minister noted that in spite of the negative effects of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism inflicted on Africa and her peoples, Africans have proven resilient to all these vices and have emerged strong as ever. So with all these historical experiences, Africans continue to make significant contributions to world culture and civilization. So far it was a satisfaction for The Gambia as this significant event took place here in Batokunku, West Coast Region, Gambia and witnessed by brothers and sisters from the Diaspora in such a significant number.

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