The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has asserted that the Gambian tourism is based heavily on the cultural heritage attractions; such as museums and sites, cuisine, dance and costumes, amongst others.
Cordu L. Jabang-Jobe was speaking on Saturday during a day-long Oku Marabout Cultural fanfare at the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in Banjul. The day showcased the cultural heritage ofthe Oku people, and also marked the launch of a book entitled: 'A Cherished Heritage,' authored by one Ramatoulie O. Othman, a Gambian writer.
The DPS reaffirmed her Ministry's commitment towards the promotion and development of culture in the country given its critical role in tourism. Commenting on the book being launched, the DPS said its title evoked a lot; in that to cherish one's heritage means to nurture, keep and preserve one's culture and heritage for posterity. She explained that the Oku Marabout group is found mainly in Banjul and the Kanifing Municipality, but noted that they also have settlements in the major groundnut trading centres like Baligho, Kanikunda and Kuntaur, where they traded in the crop during the trade season from December to April.
"Historically, it has been recorded that the group originates from the Yoruba ethnic community of Nigeria and arrived in this part of the world through their long distance trading and Islamic propagation for which they were well known," she said.
Madam Jabang-Jobesaid they are proud to say that the Oku Marabouts, though small in size, have contributed a lot to the development of Gambian cultural diversity, indicating that it is through them that specialties like "cow kanda" reached the Gambia and have become popular, if not exotic food for the citizens.
The Oku Marabouts, she went on, have some recognisable surnames such as Deen, Savage, Othman, and Madi, whilst those who were forced to attend Western schools changed their names to Martin, Cole amongst others. "Oku Marabouts are therefore mainly Muslims and it is contrary to many beliefs," he stated.
The author, Ramatoulie O Othman, for her part, thanked the NCAC, Gambia Tourism Board, her publisher and Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) for their supportstowards the publication and launching of the book. She harped on the need for every tribe to have their history recorded in written form for future generation. She then called on all Oku sons and daughters to remain united for the common good of their community and to equally promote their cultures.