By Mariatou Ngum
In early March 2020, The Gambia Government declared a State of Health Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit The Gambia just as it has hit the rest of the World.
Therefore, meetings were organised as a communication platform for artists to communicate and expressed the state of the Culture and Creative industries and their views at the end of every month during this pandemic, thus leading to the formation of the Resiliart Movement in The Gambia.
Resiliart is a UNESCO online effort to foster dialogue among Gambian artists, arts administrators and policy makers, and also UNESCO itself to assess and chart the way forward during and after Covid-19. The Gambia is the first country in Africa to do this online discussion.
The online meeting that was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture through the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) was fully supported by the UNESCO office in Dakar.
The two-day teleconference availed the NCAC the opportunity to use UNESCO Resiliart platform to continue to create hope and resilience among artists through online discussion in the safety of their homes.
The online meetings enabled Gambian artists’ voice to be heard on the impact of the pandemic on the arts, and will clear the way for a roadmap for an intervention to support the arts and culture sector by government and UNESCO and other partners as part of Covid-19 social response.
Speaking at the online debate, Baaba Sillah, a Gambia leading novelist said that pandemic periods have happened throughout human history but the Covid-19 has impeded on their lives and livelihood on a very unprecedented and massive scale to extend that its full impact is yet to be fully assessed.
As a writer, he revealed, most of his books are bought by tourists who comes in this country. “I presume it is the same thing that has happened to all the other writers,” he noted. Therefore, he said, the economic impact is severe and the impact that the Covid-19 had on them is demoralisation.
For her part, Rohey Camara, an award winning actress and a producer, stated that Covid-19 has disturbed her a lot and it affected her daily routine as an actress. She said the only way she manages is by doing movies to earn a living but the impact of the Covid-19 on her is so hard that she is depressed.
She called on the television stations and sponsors to support them launch their moves live on TV and people can watch them at home. With this, she said, they can have a little bit cash to survive with.
Jerry Jallow aka Jizzle, a young Gambia rapper, affirmed that the Covid-19 has ruin a lot for some of them especially with their shows and other activities. According to him, he was on a countrywide tour before the news of Covid-19 broke out in the country. Though, he said they have been in most of the venues they are supposed to be but they were left with Brikama, Manjai among other major areas and these were the venues he was looking up to because he got so much love from them.
He added that they were supposed to go on a European tour and they are losing a lot of money that they had invested.
Sheikh Tijan Secka who Manages STS Productions said this situation has taught him something and that is there are certain avenues and platforms that they could make money as Creative especially on online platforms. He cited YouTube as an example. “I think this is an area where the government could intervene to find a way for content creators or YouTube account holders to be able to gain revenue from their content,” he appealed.
Hassoum Ceesay thanked Gambian artists for their contribution to the Resiliart Debate and said that the dialogue will continue so that our artists will not lose out and will come out of this pandemic stronger. He commended UNESCO Dakar Office for their support and funding.
On Thursday May 7, Rohey Camara, an award winning actress and a producer; Baaba Silah, writer; Baboucarr Cham, cultural promoter and radio personality and manager; Lamin Jarju, UNESCO NATCOM; Jerry Jallow aka Jizzle, a young Gambia rapper and Sheikh Tijan Secka, Manager STS Multimedia Productions, Hassoum Ceesay, Director General, NCAC and Ndey Fatou Jabang, dancer and manager of Flexfusion Dance Troupe were on the platform.