interviewBy Ousman Njie
In this edition of Art and Music, we are continuing the second part of the interview with Mr. Yankuba Mamburay, the author of two books, which were recently launched at the Law Faculty building of the University of The Gambia. This Columnist had the interview with Mr. Mamburay last week at his Lamin residence, shortly after the book launch. The first part was published in our last Wednesday publication, issue number 232. This is the continuation:
Foroyaa: Tell us what happened when you met your brother in Liberia?
Mr Mamburay: Another interesting point. Well, the driver that picked me up asked me where I am from. One thing I was actually doing was to keep quiet until I was spoken to because anytime I speak they know I'm not from Liberia. So this driver have to ask me where I am from, I told him The Gambia and he asked me why I was in Liberia, I told him I came to look for a brother who lives in Vaguay. He asked again if I have a brother who lives in Vaguay and I answered in the positive. He asked for his name and I told him. I was surprised when he said he knows him and he even knows his house. He said the garage was close to his house and it was already dark when we reached there. It was a scaring moment because we have to cross some jungles. The road condition was very bad and at one point we have to disembark from the car to make passage easy for the driver. When we arrived at my brother's compound in Liberia, the driver pointed at a veranda and said to me "you see that man, if your brother, the one you are looking for is Demba Mamburay, that's the man. " That was a very emotional moment for me, to be frank. I stood and looked at the man at a distance then I realize that I was crying. I walked towards him and found him spilling something with a knife. I greeted him and said Salamu Alaikum and then he responded. In the Mandinka language, I said to him "how are you?". He responded in English and said he is fine. In Mandinka, again I told him I am his brother. I later made to understand that any Gambian that came from Monrovia will tell him am your brother so he was not taking me serious and thought I was just one of those people. Again in Mandinka, I said to him "how are you?" and he again responded in English and said he was fine. At this stage, I told him you really do not recorgnise me and for the first time he looked up and asked "who are you?" I said again "your brother". He said "which brother?" in Mandinka for the first time during our conversation, and I said YANKUBA MAMBURAY. What was in his hand, I think it was a potato and the knife both fell onto the floor and he started clapping and saying "My brother don cam woo, my brother don cam". He was shouting and people started coming into the house. In just a very short while the compound was full with people.
He later told me to take my bag inside and allowed me to take dinner. His first question was why do I need to take the risk to come to Liberia to look for him. I told him that I have a tape that I recorded and that he needs to listen to that tape. The tape has the voice of my mother, sisters and other family members. I told him he needs to listen to that tape and that will tell him why I came to Liberia.
After I took bath and eat, he requested for the tape and went inside his private room and listen to the tape. After about 30 munities when the tape finished, he was crying bitterly. He said to me when he travelled I was not born. He said I went to school and started working and used my own money to come to a war zone to look for him. I told him I was there to collect him so that we go home. He said he made lot of money in that county and has three compounds in Liberia. He said he lost everything because of the war but was quick to promise me that as far as I took such a dangerous journey he will come home with me. He asked me to choose a day and I told him we should leave by the end of the week. So that means he has only four days to spend in Liberia.
The following morning, he went to the neighbours and informed them that he should be leaving at the end of the week. Some of them came home and were showing their sadness about my brother going to Gambia. I was made to understand he was very important in the community and well respected by the people.
Foroyaa: Tell us what happened when your mother saw her son Demba finally coming back home alive to reunite with the family?
Mr Mamburay: Another interesting point. In Monrovia, when we came back, Air Afrique was the flight we trying to board, but the flight was cancelled at least six times. It was a war zone and I don't want to blame them but I knew the management of Air Afrique was not good. They did that to me several times and no wonder that's why they are defunct right now. My brother later told me that he will go by land instead with his wife while I can stay and wait for the flight.
When I came home I told my mother that my brother will be in the Gambia soon and my mom was asking me if he was really coming. My brother arrived some three days after my arrival to the Gambia.
I received a call from him when he was in Jarra Soma while I was working at the Arab Gambia Islamic Bank. We met at Lamin NTC. We went to my compound and my mother came out. My brother came out of the car and knelt down on the ground before my mom, they were both in tears together with the other family members. He crawled all the way to where my mum was and put his forehead down on his mother's feet. My mother allowed him to get up they hugged and were crying together. It was very emotional that day. All the people present were crying.
Foroyaa: Yes, that was indeed a very emotional moment. Now tell us something about the second book you published. How did it come about?
Mr Mamburay: Yes, that is the Mysterious Odyssey of a village Boy. This book is both a mystery and an Odyssey. It narrated a long journey in the boy's life. I wanted to teach people about our culture and our tradition. The kids are losing some of these things and they need to know the culture. I want the people to buy the book, read it and spread it out to the others. The names I used in the book are not real but 80% of what is in the book are real life things. It is a fiction, because of the 20% of the story. I called the boy Malu and people will find it interesting if they read the book.
Foroyaa: Are there any constraints to be faced in writing book? Or is that anyone can just wake up and write a book ?
Mr Mamburay: To write a book is not an easy thing because you ought how to connect a story to a story when you are writing a book. It is not just about the language or the grammar you use, but about connecting a story to a story in a way that a layman can understand what you are explaining. It is hard to tell a story without having a story within the story. The linkage is very important. However, I will encourage people to do it because lots of people are intelligent and there are thousands out there who can do more than what I did.
Actually, I didn't know I was a good writer until this incident happened that is the search for a lost brother.
Foroyaa: You are a very busy man. What time do you spare in your busy schedule to write?
Mr Mamburay: It takes a lot of your time, your mind and even your family can suffer as a result. My wife will attest to that. When I was writing, I was already perusing my Master's Degree and I was also raising a young family. I was also working full time in the U.S. It was not easy but normally the best time for me to write was at night, when the place was completely quite. That's one thing the Vice Chancellor of the University told the crowd at my Book Lunch. It takes a lot of efforts to hang back and write a story.
Once again, I want to say I'm so grateful to all the people who came to my Book Lunch. Thanks to my village people of Faraba who came to the launch. Big thanks to the Lamin people who also came there. My family is wonderful. They are always there for me. My co-workers at the UTG, I'm saying big thanks for their support. My colleagues from Malaysia, people from the Education Ministry, the Director General of the National Library, the Dean of Art and Sciences were all there.
The Book Lunch was so enjoyable but at the end it was a bit sad because when I introduced the lost brother's family to the crowd and started talking about the history of the lost brother, so many people could not hold back their tears. I don't do this because I'm brave. I did this out of necessity and anybody can do the same.
Foroyaa: What are the prices of the two books cost and where can on find them on sale?
Mr Mamburay: Each of the two books cost D200 and they are available at Timbooktoo.
Foroyaa: How can you be contacted?
Mr Mamburay: Well, I work at the UTG but still my cell is 3850300.
Foroyaa: Thanks so much for the time.
Mr Mamburay: You welcome, thank you too.