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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Statement by Prof Muhammadou MO Kah- Vice Chancellor

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As the Chief Launcher of this audiovisual, but particularly as the Vice-Chancellor of The University of The Gambia, I am thrilled that one of us, in spite of the constraints and very difficult challenges we are all faced with, has been able to demonstrate that The UTG continues to evolve and accelerate her efforts towards the path of a world class university. 

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This audio-visual documentary, in my estimation, is not only to convey to all that, ‘yes’, there exists a literature of The Gambia, produced by Gambians and non-Gambians alike, but it is meant to encourage viewers who have not yet taken up the habit of “reading” and “writing” to start doing that now. 

I’m not a reviewer or a literary critic, but I appreciate literature and poetry. I think literature will make you a better human being, as it draws deep into your humanity. As a scientist or engineer, you can be better at what you do if you are rapt and exposed with literature. I certainly agree with Janet Badjan-Young that literature must be a part of our curriculum, from early childhood to University. At the UTG, we recognise the importance and contribution of Humanities and Literature in the development of a whole student. I believe that the great Gambian Literature is yet to be written and the talents we have in our society are evidence to that fact.

As I get excited watching this wonderful contribution to knowledge, I am equally saddened that the brilliance that resides across this country does not match the output of contribution of literature thus far. This country has huge talents, from our youth folk to our elderly folk, but when you watch this documentary and learn that amongst black people’s very first authors and writers is a Gambian woman, and you look at the gap and the output of literary works that come in after her, the numbers are very disappointing.

For a work of such magnitude, Dr Gomez and his team deserve commendation (and I want us to express this by giving them a thunderous round of applause). This time it is not about books written in French (not really meant for the vast majority of Gambian readership), but a documentary in our official language, English, that will reach a wider audience. Next time, we expect it in our local languages for a bigger audience! Yes, indeed, our local languages. There is a lot of written literature and poetry that doesn’t get noticed or acknowledged, because it is not written in Roman numerals or shared in English Language or French Language. We should make it our business to dig up those literary works because they are equally important and wonderful contributions to Gambian Literature.

I was opportune to watch the on-going July 22nd Poetry competition and was particularly thrilled to listen to some of the local poetry written and read in our local languages! This must indeed be encouraged and I have no doubt that our School of Arts and Sciences will indeed put mechanisms in place to incorporate this into our academic activities, capturing the literature that exists in other local languages, whether written or oral. Dr Gomez has been shrewd enough to take Gambian literature to the screens of Gambians.  

I am also very thrilled to realize that the School of Arts & Sciences is more than poised to position itself as the hub of liberal arts education, encouraging and preparing future generations of thinkers, innovators with superb creativity, thus helping our youths to participate and contribute in the emerging “creative economy”. The History Club is an example. The UTG has supported many trips by our students who crisscrossed our communities, this country and the region to document our narratives and our history through their own lenses. This is what we expect of the University of The Gambia’s students, as well as our lecturers who are further tasked to mentor and guide our students towards that reality of seeing things from our lenses and writing our own stories

In the not-too-distant past, The University of The Gambia hosted, under the aegis of the School of Arts and Sciences, an international colloquium on multiculturalism that brought together seasoned scholars from across the world; Mr Essa Touray threw into circulation three audiovisual documentaries on The Gambia and beyond and today, we are about to throw into circulation yet another one. This is what true scholarship is really about! It may be true that the West is not where it is today because of literature, but it is true that as well as sharpening the minds of their early citizens, literature helped to build strong moral edifices in their societies and make engineers and scientists better engineers and scientists! 

That man who chooses not to read, will deny his family the values, characters and lenses of the world. Books can take you to destinations that you can only imagine and your household will be richer for it. 

I would like to avail myself the opportunity to remind our colleagues what the UTG continues to advocate: it is our desire and commitment to promote true scholarship in The University of The Gambia, as it is only through excellent and appropriate scholarship and knowledge-creation that we can achieve His Excellency, the President, Sheikh Professor Dr Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Nasirudeen Babali Mansa’s vision for this University to be ranked amongst the best globally.

I do recognise, appreciate and applaud all your efforts. I do cherish and respect our faculty colleagues who continue to work hard and are committed to the academe, bent on working on the volumes of their peer reviewed publications and not only teach our students, but continue to mentor and inspire them. They earn my respect and the respect of this University. I will continue to encourage and support you in this venture. 

It is perhaps useful to share with you the words of Nuruddin Farah, taken from his novel entitled Sweet and Sour Milk: “Every nation needs heroes in which to invest a past, heroes and legendary figures about whom one tells stories to children and future generations”. I want the UTG students and Alums to be our future generations of abundance of heroes and sheroes- be the generation that celebrates and appreciates achievements, performance, good values, discipline and creativity, at least more than our generation and generations before ours! 

So, Dr Gomez and team, I thank you for a job thoroughly executed. Keep it up. Now, my challenge to all of you is to begin to take these beautiful and important literary works to film, theatre for local and global consumption! This can be done and it will be very a rewarding and gratifying contribution! So, UTG, School of Arts and Sciences, there you have it; the work has just begun and you will always have my support as you embark on that journey! We equally, look forward to yet other literature to emerge from UTG and her Alums and faculty! 

Again, Bravo! On that note, I hereby declare this first ever documentary on Gambian Literature entitled “The Emergence of Gambian Literature” launched.

I thank you for your kind attention.

 

29th September, 2014.

UTG Digital Campus, Brikama

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