A book on the history and growth of The Gambian capital titled A Geocritical Representation of Banjul (Bathurst): 1816-2016 is a refreshing, if not seminal, addition to Gambian Studies in that it is the first tome to specifically address aspects on the history and society of Banjul, The Gambian capital since its purchase by the British in 1816.
The various authors have taken a multidisciplinary approach to unravel the salient role of The Gambian capital in the making of the colonial heritage of the country. Indeed, although the chapters specifically address issues related to Banjul, the larger history of the country unravels as one goes through the monograph.
Rarely has a West African city gotten a whole book dedicated to her history, and this book is therefore a real masterstroke in innovative scholarship which all students of Gambian history, society and culture should read.
The 316 pages book is edited by Prof Pierre Gomez (Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, The University of The Gambia) and Mr Hassoum Ceesay historian and curator Gambia National Museum.
In his preface to the book noted Gambian poet and economist Dr Tijan Sallah wrote: ‘Banjul is more than a historical and colonial relic: it is both a physical and cultural space but, above all, an overcrowded living space’. He added: ‘A Geocritical Representation of Banjul (Bathurst) 1816-2016 is a historical, cultural and physical celebration of Banjul. It is a uniquely important book because it tells the biography of an African city – a “bio-polis” – so to speak, by providing detailed descriptive and analytical perspectives of how it came to be; its role in supporting commerce in goods and in human slavery; its role as a pawn in Franco-British colonial gamesmanship on the West African coast; its role in serving as a living and death space, a place where the natives – Mandinka/Bambara, Wolof, Serere, Fula, Jola, Manjago and Aku interacted with Europeans – English, French, Portuguese – for mutual gain through merchant capitalism and sometimes intermarried and produced hybridised offspring (mulatoes).
In his introduction to the book, the co-editor Professor Pierre Gomez of the UTG explained that “In 2016, Banjul celebrated its 200 years of existence since the signing of the 23 April 1816 treaty by Alexander Grant and Tomani Bojang. Since then, Banjul has become a town, and even the capital of the Gambia. A lot of water has passed under the bridge and the city has become an endless construction of new cultures and new paradigms for mutual coexistence.” The other co-editor Hassoum Ceesay related that the essays were collated in commemoration of the Banjul Bicentenary two years ago, and after many attempts it was only now that the book can come out.
Contributors to the book include Professor Jean Dominique Penel whose chapter on “Bathurst in the eyes of the French from 1816 to 1912’ traces how the French were very much interested and present in Gambia in the 1700 and 1800s. Dr Matthew Park’s chapter ‘The excretory system: the politics of sanitation in colonial Bathurst, 1900 -1950’ is an intriguing look at the link between sanitation and politics in Bathurst in the mid 1900s. Dr Sylvie Coly’s chapter on ‘The use of satire in Tijan M Sallah’s poetry ‘Banjul as the mirror of contemporary Gambian society’ assess how literature helps to explain the dynamics of the Gambian capital’. Bertha Johnson of the UTG, Dr CO Barry, and Dr Liza Gijanto, professor at St Mary’s College, Maryland, USA also contributed chapters.
The work is published by Global Hands Publishing, UK. The launch ceremony is slated for 10 January 2018 at Laico Atlantic Hotel, Banjul, 10 am prompt.
Vice President Aja Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang will be the chief launcher and Dr Aminata Sillah will be the reviewer.