THE BUSH OF IGNORANCE
Work on the farms was completed and a day has been declared for the annual festival ‘Mambo’. Many people travelled miles from their homes to attend this historical occasion, this most honoured feast of the Mansuwanka tribe.
It was on this day in the dawn of February that Amina gave birth to a baby boy.
“Ajawara! Ajawara!” a woman shouted in Mansuwanka saying ‘strangers’. Everybody, including the Chief, came round to see who the stranger was. The Chief called upon his soothsayer to prophesy, as it was their custom.
“Swezina! Swezina!” cried the Soothsayer meaninglessly. “This little boy shall be called Mambo from this day. And according to the Gods he shall be our King and will later bring his people to light. That means he will rise against the Gods”.
“Let us kill him,” said Saidou, the Chief’s son.
“We don’t want any king who will rise against our Gods and destroy us all,” said one old man.
“If that is the wish of the people we shall kill him in two days’ time. We don’t want any destructive king,” cried the Chief.
“No! Chief, do not kill the boy”, he said. But his voids were in vain for the Chief had already made up his verdict. Everybody retired home sadly and waited for the day of the killing.
0 n the day, Mambo’s father who had been aNk ay for a month’s hunting arrived. The news of the incident soon rattled into his ears, and he wanted to act immediately. But he was advised by the Soothsayer not to try anything.
A little while before the baby was due to be killed, the Soothsayer disappeared with him. When the Chief learnt of the disappearance of the baby he was very angry.
“Get him back you fools!” he shouted, “and never show your faces without him”.
All the guards immediately assembled and spread into the village in search of the baby. The father tried to defend their home, but he was brutally killed. They cut down the forest. All this effort was in vain.
Mambo was hidden at Sembeh the master of the forest’s invisible home. Here he lived happily with him. The Chief and his warriors, at last, gave up their search for him.
Mambo grew up to be a tall, brave and active lad. Sembeh was very fond of him. He taught him many important things. When he reached the age of nineteen Sembeh told him the story of his people and how he came to stay with him. Mambo shed tears and longed to return home and free his people from the tyranny of the Chief. But he was begged to wait for two more years. The two years soon passed by, and Sembeh held a feast for him. After the feast, he was presented with a magic ring which would help him in case of any danger.”Take this ring with you, my son, for you will need it. You will come across many adventures but face them with courage and determination. May God be with you.” These were Sembeh’s parting words to hint.
With this, Mambo sadly left the Sembeh family but promised to marry Sembeh’s daughter on his return. He travelled for many hours through the thick forest. He came across many huge snakes but all he killed. At last, he came to what was known as the many miles of open country.
Here dwelled many species of wild animals. But Mambo walked more proudly than ever with a club his only friend and weapon. He came to the lair of a lion, where he decided to spend the night.
At midnight when dawn was six hours away, and the place was getting quiet, he suddenly heard a strange unfamiliar noise. Mambo quickly jumped up and saw a huge figure with terrifying eyes. It was the lion, the King of the animals! Mambo lifted his club and bravely waited. The lion sprang into the air, but before it could touch Mambo, he dodged and gave it a blow which sent it rolling on the ground. Before it could recover, Mambo struck a second time leaving the lion dead. He made clothes from the lion’s skin.
At dawn, Mambo walked for many more miles before coming at last to his native home. As the sun was almost setting, he decided to spend the night nearer the village.
During the night he heard many cries and beating. It was `Batusabu’, the Sea?son of Sacrifice when the twenty most beautiful virgins in the village were to be killed. The head of their gods, ‘Jalang’, was to attend this occasion. In this Society, the power of reasoning was lost, and ignorance predominated.
At dawn, when the sun was about three hours old, the messengers went around to call the people. Everybody came except Amina who stayed in her hut mourning. ‘Jalang’ was sitting on a dais carried by ten strong men. All who came bowed before him saying a few strange words. Mambo was standing fifty yards away, looking with interest.
The drums beat, and people danced to mark the ceremony of death. Palmwine calabashes were passed from one person to another. An atmosphere of forced happiness prevailed. But as soon as `Jalang’ lifted his hand, the smoke of happiness disappeared, and the first virgin was thrown into the fire. The yell of the helpless girl catapulted Mambo into the ring just a couple of yards away from `Jalang’. Everybody looked with astonishment at this strange lad standing before the man they long thought immortal with only a club in hand. Nobody but the Soothsayer recognised him.
“You tyrant! Why have you ordered these young girls to be killed ?” asked Mambo.
“How dare you call me a tyrant? You dirty dog! Who are you ?”
“I am Mambo, the son of Amina. I have come to free my people from you wicked monsters.”
At this, Saidou, who was then the Chief, commanded his warriors to kill Mambo. But with the help of the magic ring. Mambo killed all the thirty-nine right-hand warriors. The villagers could not believe their eyes. ‘Jalang’ and Saidou, who were now shaking with fright, had decided to run away when Mambo seized ‘Jalang’ by the throat.
.4″How dare you tell me that they have a right, you lousy fool !” He rushed to smash Bala with his club. But the hunter was too fast for him. He held Apamba by the waist and gave him a bone-cracking throw. Apamba then attempted a second move, but this time he was sent legs overhead into the river. All the villagers came to see Apamba struggling to swim across the river. They threw stones at him but luckily, he got to the opposite bank safely. “You will pay for this, you fools,” he shouted.
At this, the people became more frightened thinking that they would all perish when the gods came to revenge. They immediately assembled at the bantaba, per?plexed. But when nothing happened after a season, they lost all belief in Apamba and began questioning what had happened to their children.
Under the command of Bala, the villagers went all the way to Apamba’s cave, which was in an isolated forest. They burnt down the forest, and all the “witch scholars- with strange incredible features rushed to escape. They were all shot to death. The cave was then destroyed, all the gold taken but still, there was no sign of Apamba. They hunted him for many months. One day at dawn, he was found dead at a lake fifty miles north of Kubunch. The villagers were so happy that they made a feast for Bala after which he was given the most beautiful girl of Kubuneh to take away with him as a wife.
THE FALL OF A WITCH DOCTOR
Somewhere in the heart of the African continent lies the village of Kubuneh. It is situated on the upper banks of what is now called the river Cassamance. The inhabitants were predominantly fishermen with a minority of palm wine tappers.
For many years the entire village was terrorized by Apamba the witch doctor. He lived in a cave two miles away from Kubuneh. The villagers called him the “great father” for he pretended to be the messenger of the God of the river. He was a strong intelligent man with extraordinary features. Apamba visited Kubuneh once annually, only when there was a flood. He would tell the people that the God of the river was angry. And unless they gave ten of their children as a sacrifice, the entire village would be drowned. So the poor ignorant villagers had to give out ten children yearly to protect their village. The children were taken to Apamba by the witch doctor.. But what happened to them remained a mystery to the people of Kubuneh for many years.
One day, however, a famous hunter had a night stop at Kubuneh. He was a tall stately man in his middle thirties. His name was Bala. He was known far and wide around the river as the bravest hunter and the best wrestler. As soon as Bala arrived at Kubuneh he saw how melancholy the people were. When he enquired about this, he was told everything. Bala decided there and then to stay in Kubuneh until the inhabi?tants could be properly educated and freed. The following day, the Alkalo, Jerreh, summoned a meeting at which Bala disclosed his plans.
“How do you expect us to believe your story, Bala ?” asked an elderly person. “We had floods for many years, and anytime we sacrifice our children, the water returns to the river,” added an old man.
“Nonsense!,” interrupted Bala. “I have travelled the length and breadth of our land for many years and saw many flooded areas. People in these places didn’t sacrifice even a chick, and they are still alive. For how long do you have to sacrifice your future leaders ?”
“But we have no alternative,” said Jereh.
“Of course, you have! Just deny Apamba the children for one season.” “Will you be here to defend our village in case of any danger?” “I shall be with you until Kubuneh is freed.”
The people were rather half-heartedly convinced, but still they agreed to deny Apamba the children for one year.
Three months later, there was a flood as usual, and Apamba appeared in a leopard skin dress decorated with beads, cowries and red cloth. To his amazement, he was only welcomed by a strange figure with not a single child to take with him.
“Where are the people of Kubuneh, Stranger?” “They are all sleeping comfortably.”
“Sleeping comfortably !”
“Why not? They have a right to.”
“Spare me, Mambo and I shall give you all my wealth”, pleaded `Jalang’
“You expect me to spare you, tyrant, after your long pretension as a God ?” went on Mambo as he squeezed `Jalang’ to death. The people who saw `Jalang’ dying threw themselves on the ground, thinking that the sky would fall with “Jalang’s death as they had long believed would happen. But when they saw not a single pebble drop, they all rushed to Mambo and lifted him in the air.
`Long live Mambo! Long live the Saviour!” the villagers shouted.
The Soothsayer, who stood not very far, came forward and introduced Amina and the people to Mambo. Amina could not at first believe her eyes. For years she had prayed to see her lost child.
The villagers were so happy that they made a feast for Mambo, who devoted his life to freeing them from their troubles and bringing them to light.
Later Mambo married Sembeh’s daughter as he had promised and ruled his people happily for many years.
Salifu S. Kujabi was the first Executive Director of The President’s Award Scheme of The Gambia in 1979 and through the 1980s and into the 1990s until 2001, he was also the Africa Regional Officer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association. He worked closely with the International Executive Director to develop this unique holistic Young development programme across Africa. Mr Kujabi was a trained teacher who later when he headed the much popular youth development programme, became a household name in the 1980s and 90s. A remarkable Gambian, Salifu Kujabi dedicated his life to the service, inspiration, and support of the young people in The Gambia and across (source: YEA PROJECT). He wrote many short stories and published a book on the benefits of the Papaya. He passed away in August 2020.