InFOCUS - Bakau Town
Monday, March 17, 2008
Millions of people have been irresistibly attracted to the wonders of the magical world of Harry Potter books, owing to the
fantasies and the mental picture the books imprint in the minds of readers. For obvious reasons, and perhaps better known to
some people, Bakau town erupted out of Kombo as a coastal town, offering an intimate, friendly home-away-from-home atmosphere, with distinctive glamour (and unique smell of fish!).
The Gambia’s area was said to be once the nucleus of a viable political system. For over 400 years, a group of kingdoms clustered along the river’s banks, including Kombo. The indigenous people of Bakau, mainly the Bojangs, Jammehs, and Jattas, had heavily relied on agriculture and marine resources for their survival.
Oral historians hold that the Sidibehs, later came from Mali Wasulung as migrants and settled on the coast, where the present spectacular Sunbeach Hotel is beautifully situated. These people are reputed for skills in fishing and they had found dignity in the power of hoes and Kulanjangnos on their bushy lands.
In the course of the expansion of this coastal village, a fire disaster engulfed homes and huts, forcing the villagers to retreat to another location close to the heart of Bakau. This area is called Wasulung Kunda and traces the origin of the migrants from the mighty kingdom of Manding. For nearly a century, the settlement has always been governed by its own Alkalo and has its own Imam.
As the town continues its orbit of evolution, more settlements sprung up at areas that were used for agricultural activities. Newtown, Fajara, Pipeline and Jeswang all came into existence.
The town’s infrastructure developed but at a slow pace following the departure of the British administration. Since then, tourism has always been a key economic activity in the town.
In 1965, a Swedish tour operator, Bertil Harding, accidentally stumbled over The Gambia and fell in love with its sparkling sandy beaches and friendly people. After The Gambia won its independence from Britain, the new government opened doors for tourism as a potential foreign exchange earner. In 1967, Harding flew in his first group of tourists to The Gambia on a small aircraft.
The town hosts important ambassadorial residences, including that of the British, Guinea Bissau, the US, amongst others.
Bakau was smart to take on tourism business when the sector was at its embryonic stage. The sector has been providing employment opportunities to a good number of residents. Before Senegambia area gained its effulgence as a beacon in the industry, hotels, restaurants and night clubs flourished across the length and breath of the town. Club 98, Musu’s Night Club, Sunwing Hotel, the Tropic, Fajara Hotel, Amie’s Beach Hotel, and Cape Point Hotel were the shakers and movers of Gambian tourism.
The robust transformation of the economic life of the town also came with the influx of craft markets which thronged the Atlantic Road; from the Fajara Course Gulf to Cape Point. To survive in this competitive business, it requires a high sense of creative artistry and craftsmanship. A wide range of African craft works and cultural jewelries are put on display to the admiration of tourists.
In no small measure, these subtle craft works trace the origin, social, economic and cultural life of the Gambian people, bringing pre-colonial Gambia back to life. This sector is crucial to the restoration of the African glory, It inspires young African generation and the people of African descendant in the Diaspora, who are inescapably challenged with identity crisis.
Equally, some people were absorbed by fresh juice processing business, some by weaving, while others have engaged in painting, batik making and tie-dye businesses. Although it may be difficult to track the monetary gains these businesses yield for the people, one can satisfactory conclude that the benefits have been substantial to those involve in them.
Besides tourism, most Bakau women specialise in horticultural gardening, where they appreciably make ends meet. The produce from these gardens provide the food basket for families and help the women farmers earn income to take care of basic needs of their families. However, expanding their farming activities remain a challenge. They cultivate few garden beds on a seasonal basis. The lack of capacity for production and modern farming techniques continues to suffocate their efforts to adquately meet the commercial demands for agricultural produce.
Bakau town is also distinctive in the producing rare talents for the country’s and the world’s most popular sport, football. Ndow Njie of the Police FC, K. Jammeh of the Gambia Police Force, Jarra Fatty of Damels FC, Lai Jagne of Sanchaba FC, Modou Musa of Star Lights (now First International Bank), the late Alasana Konateh, Alhaji Imam Sunkary Sidibeh, Ansu Ceesay, all from Kachikally FC, Badou Hoye Njie of Bakau, Burama Jaiteh of Police FC, Bass Awomi of Bakau, Baba Jarra and Sarjo Njie of Juffureh FC, are examples. Almost all these talents made it to the national football team. Besides their envious legacy, they aid a solid foundation for the development of football in the country.
As the birthplace of the annual summer football jamboree, Nawettan, Bakau produced an indomitable squad to win the first Youth Week Championship, when they stunned jaunting Banjul team in a well-attended final at Box Ba pitch (now the King Fahd Mosque).
Indeed, this legacy has triumphed conspicuously, inspiring the young generation of footballers to more glory. The succeeding generation saw the likes of Abdoulie Bojang, goalkeeper Pa Sonko (Pompidoo), Lamin Jatta (alias Chocks), Kebba Jammeh, and Paring Jammeh of Steve Biko FC, Kawsu Jammeh of Wallidan, Wanday Njie and Gassimu Nying, Boye Dibba, goalkeeper Pa Ansu Fatty, and a lot more. Ebou Sillah, Musa Bajaha, goal keeper Pa Demba Touray, and Edrissa Sonko (now play at Walsall Fc in UK), who moved from his native village of Essau, discovered his best in Bakau, where he lived with his relative, goalkeeper Pa Sonko.
Bakau has never relented in producing footballers of timber and mettle. At a time when football has become more scientific and more globalised, Bakau produces more for the country- Lamin Konateh, Ousman Jallow, Pa Landing Konateh, Assan Jatta, Demba Sanyang, Daddy Gai, Sainey Nyassi and his twin brother Sanna Nyassi, and so on, are examples. Most of these people are lying their trade abroad; defusing the shadowy notion that little Gambia is an underdog in the world of football. With the advent of football academies in the town, the prospects for the game of football in Bakau is indeed promising.
Despites its contribution to national efforts, Bakau, like Serrekunda and other places, is faced with myriad of challenges. Many young people are ignorantly lured into negative life styles which are destructive to their well-being.
With their superfluous ambitions growing beyond the scope of their little brains, it appears as if they are psychologically condemned to the obsession of getting to Europe by any means; even at the expense of their education and death. But what they should realise is that traveling to Europe is not smooth and rosy as it appears. Soon than later, they get disappointed by the complexities that life presents and begin to live a life that holds nothing but destruction to their cherished dreams.
However, the social life in Bakau is intimate and fun. Bantabas, coupled with the various hot spots around the town, offer ideal places for interaction and social cohesion. It is hoped that with time, the town will be further transformed and developed to the delight of residents of the town and their guests.
Author: by Ebrima Jaw Manneh