December 2012 D100 • $4 • €3 • £2
UK Based Arts & Cultural Entrepreneur Sir Njok Malik Malariais this the beginning of its end?
My Journey Gambia in the to Europe 2012 Olympics
Why 50,000+ Brits visit The Gambia annually
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Jojo In this issue
I am very much encouraged by the fact that you liked the quality and content of the first issue. I have however noted that some improvements need to be made even whereas some of you have gone as far as comparing it
So far so good, all your feedbacks have been positive and I am already taking on board some suggestions. To the sponsors I say thank you for believing in this product. I will strive to meet your expectations as I understand your concerns and doubts. I promise to maintain a reassuring track record by publishing a minimum of 3 issues during a 12 months period and nothing less. So I beg your understanding so as not to measure Jojo’s Mag by your experience with similar ventures. If you want to buy a page for your private event or to advertise, please contact me by email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and am always available on Facebook for the regular chats. To my fans and readers, and particularly people who are helping market the mag, no words can describe how much I feel supported, you are my angels. I take note that most people liked the diversity of people showcased, so to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and other parts of the region, we welcome you on board. Thanks and till next time, Likes!
UK International music promoter: Sir Njok Malick
20 July 4th USA Celebrations provided by Saidou Ndow
21 Celebrating Assumption Day (Sang Marie) by Gambian Christians in USA
10 Gentlemen’s page 11 Graduates page 12 Fatou’s Show provided by SIAKA 13 Malaria-is this the beginning of its end 14 London 2012 Tanabirr - SeneGambian Week Day1 by Musa Sarr 15 Why 50,000 Brits Visit Gambia each year 16 Sa Hew-Birthday Bash of Faith Cole at the Hendon Hotel, London 18 Africa Alive 19 London 2012 Assan Njie ConcertSeneGambian Week Day2 by Musa Sarr
I am committed to making sure that Jojo’s Mag becomes a household name not just in The Gambia but in West Africa as a whole, and am very keen to work with sponsors and readers to use it as a medium for promoting their ideas and products. So, although I rely heavily on my core team, above all, YOU, the readers and sponsors, are the most important in deciding which direction Jojo’s Mag goes.
with OVATION magazine. Now that is very ambitious, but we can get there. So please don’t give up on bringing to my attention where I might have failed to cross a “t” or dot an “I”, and most importantly, letting me know what you would like to see and read.
22 London 2012 Park event-SeneGambian Week Day3 by Musa Sarr 23 The Semester’s Story - My Life in the WEST 25 Makeover Fashion exclusive with Model Ndey Oley 26 Pap Pap Thiopet in Gambia 28 Couples page 29 Pap Diouf in Gambia 30 The Gambia at London 2012 Olympics
Njok Malik Jeng Quiet, soft spoken entrepreneur from Gambia fondly called by all as Sir Njok Malik Jeng. 1. Please tell our readers a little bit about your background, childhood and growing up before you came to the UK. I was born and raised in Banjul, I attended Albion Primary & Saint Augustine’s High School. I grew up in a polygamous ‘Wolof’ household and extended Family, mixed with people from different backgrounds and tribes. My dad had fostered and was the guardian to many children/people, mostly coming from the provinces, to either continue their education or find work in the Capital. So my childhood environment was a one big happy and disciplined ‘hub’, with brothers and sisters from same mum & step mums, adoptees and other close relatives & family friends. As a child, I frequently travelled to Dakar, Senegal with my dad to visit his mum, younger sister and other relatives. There is a big side to our family that live in Senegal. Growing up in Banjul, I had been a member of different youth social clubs/vous, from ‘Afdie’ to ‘Sajatawoun’, but Allen St./ Lancaster area is my forte. I have always been a sports enthusiast, with Football topping the list. I am a die-hard Real de Bjl fan and a keen Manchester United supporter.
2. How did it all start and how long have you been in this business of promoting music, arts and culture and who was the first international star you have brought to the UK? I lived in UK for very long now and have always been active in community social activities. In the mid 90s, some smart youths decided to set up a Welfare Organisations for UK-Gambians. My friend Big Taf, introduced me to this group which was incepted as Gambia Youth Association (GYA). After a short time, the group had its first congress and I was elected Chair. This allowed me a handson to all its’ various activities. GYA was a learning curve and attracted a lot of young resourceful people. It was here I developed good personal relations with the knowledgeable Gibril Faal, who would play key roles in my transformation as an Arts Practitioner, years later, when GYA became dysfunctional. Yaram was registered in late 1999 and our first proper full live Band event was Alioune Mbaye Nder & Setsima Group @ Palace Pavillion in Clapton, London. 3. Why Yaram, any rationale behind the name? Well, when we decided to venture into arts & culture, I had many sessions with Gibril to basically cover some grounding, develop a project plan and formally set up the company. We brainstormed for a fitting name and agreed to go for ‘Yaram’ which literally stands for ‘Gentle’. We believed that our approach to achieving our goals is that ‘Gentle yet Sure’ way of doing things. Also by extension, ‘Yaram’ is a praise name for the ‘Faal’ (family name) in traditional ‘wolof’ dictum. Thus in other words, it serves a tribute to Gibril for his immense contributions ‘FAAL NDIAGA YARAM’.... (Laugh)
3. Most people think you only promote Senegambia artists, can you kindly elaborate on some of your other art related activities? As an origin of that part of the world, it’s natural that we work with a lot of artists from that area, which could create such misconceptions. But our core engagement is touring AfricanCaribbean Music from different parts of the world, whether from the continent or Diaspora. In fact, our remit is beyond that as we also design and present arts related educational workshops, in partnership with other institutions like University of London. We have also developed an interesting heritage story, based on the Life of the Gambian Islamic Slave Cleric (Ayuba Suleiman Jallow) fused with West African Sufi-Poetry. A lot of our work is funded by Arts Council England and for that matter we are bound to deliver certain programme of activities, every year. 4. What is the main challenge of the music promotion business, especially for artists coming from developing countries? I would say Visas and Work Permits problems are major obstacles. Nowadays, it costs about £200 per person for visa processing fee. Yet, this does not even guarantee you clearance as there are other permits related criteria to be met. In fact in some countries, for example Congo, it is almost impossible to place a successful visa application for music groups. Also Jamaica face similar problems as Dancehall artists are somehow banned from performing in UK. Now compound this with some of the ridiculous artist fees generally available for African acts in conventional venues compared to their peers from other genres or continents. No wonder nowadays, only the established African Caribbean stars
Proprietor of Yaram Arts – A London Based Social Enterprise in Arts, Culture and Heritage
of yesteryears, continue to tour UK, year in, year out. There is hardly any room for fresh talent to come through. From a community gig/soiree perspective, I think the problem is FREEBIES, THE CULTURE OF GOING IN FOR FREE. Yet the shocking part of it all is that, those who do everything to get in without paying are usually the ones guilty of dishing out free money to the artists on stage (Laugh). On a serious note, this really undermines the viability and by extension the future of these shows. 5. Who would you like to see in your future line up of international stars? I think Youssou Ndure [the Senegalese international superstar now appointed minister in the new government] has to leave the Political Arena and come back to music, he has left a huge vacuum and Mbalax fans would be happy to see him back on stage, whether via Yaram or any other event organiser. Also Congo has many big international stars like Fally Ipupa who can’t be programmed in UK currently because of the country’s prevailing political problems mixed with UK Border stringent rules. 6. Have you got any plans to promote a major event in Gambia anytime soon? No, not at all, I think the Gambian
market is overcrowded and it’s not helpful that all the public institutions have jumped onto the bandwagon of bringing artists and paying them huge sums that the local ordinary promoters, who used to hustle out a little profit in their old arrangement, can’t match. Alrite, some use the pretext of various good causes but I don’t believe all of them have to adopt this format to fundraise for charity...... 7. For three years now you have been the brain behind bringing thousands of people to what is now an annual summer pilgrimage celebrating Senegambian culture, what does it take to put such an event together? A huge amount of work is involved in this. There is a lot of regulations to meet and over a dozen different departments at the council to satisfy, from the Police, Fire Service, Social Services and so on. Luckily, we have a strong team and we all work very hard to pull it through. I think Sheriff Jammeh (Big C) deserves a special commendation for this year’s event. In any case, we are satisfied that the feedback from participants and audiences, and the impact to Children of SeneGambian/ African descent, who we aimed at giving some cultural perspective, is positive. I hope that this avant-garde, medieval West African Masquerade Festival, somewhat pioneered by Yaram, will continue to grow and also gain more mainstream recognition. It is our culture and heritage and its’ future lies collectively in our custody. I think we should safeguard this as our common interest and not allow any trivial issues to hamper it.
8. Would you like to mention some of your sponsors and individuals whose support has enabled you do what you do? Please don’t feel put on the spot, you can decline. Indeed we acknowledge support from a wide spectrum of businesses, organisations and people who over the years continue to assist us to realise our activities. This includes Western Union, Islington Council, Bayba Money Transfer, Immediate Finance, Stuart Karatas Solicitors, Taf Constructions BJL, Sky High Group Estates BJL, Gambia Horses and Donkey Trust UK, WA KEUR S MASSAMBA MBACKE TAILORS, Gambia United Society UK, Kombo Sillah Association, and our other partners outside of the community. Also, the whole Yaram team from Edi Jah, Xavier, Ousai, Boun, Emma, Ellie Toure, Babacar Diallo et al (List is too long), all our artists, traditional communicators, DJs’ Daffeh, Gorreh, Ebra & Champion and most importantly the general community and well wishers in here and abroad. I would like to dedicate this interview to the memory of my late friend Sylvia Stapelton (blessed memory), who died from cancer a decade ago. She was one of the founding directors of Yaram and her spirit will always live with us. We pray the almighty God grant her eternal bliss. We also thank JoJo’s Mag for this interview and wish them all the best for the future. We encourage all to support Jojo’s Mag because this is something needed for the Gambia and they have a very serious and committed team, and I am convinced they are here to stay. We call upon sponsors, businesses and people to patronise the magazine. Thanks, Njok
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Graduates Page dedicated to This page will be aduated with Gambians who gr the world. ound a degree from ar to submit their ed vit in is ne yo Ever ng es with the followi graduation pictur e, leg ol /c ity e, Univers information: Nam n. tio ua ad gr of d year degree granted an iversity of â€Ś, (e.g. Fatou X, Un 2011). BSc Economics, nt by email to All entries to be se com jojosmag@sky.
Above: Isatou Marong-City Banking College through Roehampton University, 1st Class Honours Degree, BSc Banking with Economics and Law, Grad Year-2012 Left: Yassin Jobe-Gai (with Children) - University of Manchester; Grad-Year-July 2012; Degree-MSc International Human Resources Development in Gender (Distinction)
Above: Jainaba K. Baldeh - University of Roehampton; Degree-BSc (Hons) in Banking with Economics & Law; Grad Year - 2012
Jojoâ€™s MAG 11
FATOU’S SHOW provided by SIAKA
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Possibility of Eliminating Malaria In Parts Of Africa
our years ago this article was published in ScienceDaily i (Nov. 4, 2008). We herein reproduce part of the article as news information and for educational purpose only in line with the general aims of the original print, because we believe the subject matter is essential reading for the whole of Africans. Some of the information included, incorporates public domain materials available on the internet. The incidence of malaria has fallen significantly in Gambia in the last 5 years, according to a study carried out by experts. The findings of the study appeared in The Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal with speciality on Infectious Diseases. The article raised the possibility of eliminating malaria as a public health problem in parts of Africa, and Gambia was a pilot host country for this study. According to the article, “Malaria is a major cause of illness and death in Africa”. Investigations into ways of controlling malaria have been underway in Gambia for more than 50 years and, since 2003, efforts to deliver malaria interventions to pregnant women and children under 5 – including intermittent preventive treatment, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) and indoor residual spraying - have been stepped up considerably. The authors sought to investigate the changes that have occurred in Gambia over the past nine years, their potential causes, and public health significance. They analysed original records in order to establish the numbers and proportions of malaria inpatients, deaths and blood-slide examinations at one hospital over nine years (January 1999-December 2007) and at four health facilities in three different administrative regions over seven years (January 2001-December 2007). They obtained additional data from single sites on the age distribution of malaria admissions. At each of the four sites, they found that the proportions of malaria-positive had decreased by 82%, 85%, 73% and 50% respectively between 2003 and 2007. Meanwhile, during the same period at the three sites with complete admission records, the proportions of malaria admissions fell by 74%, 69% and 27%. Proportions of deaths attributed to malaria in two hospitals fell by more than 90%. The team also recorded a substantial shift in the average age of children who were admitted to one hospital with malaria after 2004, with far fewer under 5s being admitted after that year. The average age until 2004 was similar to that recorded ten years previously, so the finding of a trend towards older ages of malaria cases was new. A more substantial decrease of malaria admissions in younger children is likely to be largely due to increased use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), since this intervention is targeted at children under 5, but it may also reflect a situation in which children are taking longer to acquire immunity. The team considered possible reasons for the decrease of malaria in Gambia. Changes in rainfall, medication,
are operated by the government. In addition there are 8 main health centres and a further 16 smaller centres, 200 plus mobile clinic unit teams as well as the Medical Research Council which is funded by the UK Government. There are also a number of privately run clinics as well as a few health focused NGOs operating in Gambia. Primary health care focused on villages with a population of over 400 individuals where a Village Health Worker and Traditional Midwife would be initially trained then assigned to deliver primary health care to their village of responsibility. They are responsible for providing out-patient Simple tips to help care, community health education, ensuring there is a sufficient level avoid Malaria: • Puddles of water become breeding of essential medicines and home visitations. Apart from the assisting grounds for mosquitoes, so keep mothers to be in home births the midthe surrounding dry and clean. wife would refer any mothers • Do not enter air conditioned room who seem to be at risk to the local with wet hair and damp cloths. health centres. • Dry your feet and webs with soft Secondary health care is provided dry cloth whenever they are wet. by the large and small health centres. • Drink plenty of water and keep your There are around 7 main governmentbody well hydrated. run private health centres, 12 smaller • Do not allow kids to play in sluggish centres and 19 pharmacies, with each providing in-patient and out-patient polluted water filled puddles. treatment. Each has its resident • Prevent: Get some anti-malarial nurses, doctors and ancillary staff. drugs, use mosquito nets, Tertiary health care is the 3rd repellents creams and coils. level health services delivered by 4 The health care main referral hospitals, the Medical Research Council (MRC), several system of The private clinics and NGO operated Gambia ii clinics. The main referral hospital is at the RVTH in the capital on The healthcare system in Gambia Independence Drive. The other 3 is built around 3 levels which are are located at Bansang, Farafenni Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. and Bwiam. There are 4 referral hospitals which
socio-economic changes, improvements in communications and access to education may also have helped, but most of these factors tend to have a more gradual impact rather than the rapid changes reported at the different sites The most substantial change in measures to prevent malaria has been the increase of coverage of ITNs, which thanks to well-publicised initiatives from the Global Fund, UNICEF and WHO increased threefold between 2000 and 2006 (49% of under 5s in Gambia are now reported to be sleeping under ITNs – the highest reported coverage in Africa).
Accessed from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081030203243.htm
Accessed from http://www.accessgambia.com/information/health-care.html
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London 2012 Tanabirr SeneGambian Week Day1
provided by Musa Sarr
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Why over 50000 Brits visit tiny Gambia each year
iny Gambia with a river running through its entire length, has a population of about 1.6 million which is less than that of each of the nine regions of England and a little less than a quarter of the population of London. Little is perhaps know about The Gambia, partly because it is the smallest country on mainland Africa, or maybe because it is not one of the African countries usually of interest to international television news networks. But according to the Gambia Hotel Association website, it is fast becoming one of the most sought-after winter sun destinations for European tourists. It appears then that what the country lacks for newsworthy attention, it does for attracting Brits looking for a holiday destination within a reasonable distance. Ironically though, tourism has always been associated with what Gambia should have been best known for since it gained independence from Britain in 1965. During the past 10 years, tourism has emerged as one of, if not the most important industry for the local economy. A fully functional and independent tourism board has been established to work alongside the ministry to develop strategies aimed at promoting tourism as a competitive and viable industry. Tourism to Gambia now has more to offer as the choice for visitors continue to expand year after year with new add-ons like sky diving launched this year. “Go Discover The Smiling Coast of Africa” is the new slogan being promoted to feature this virgin destination with the words “Go Discover” added to what is still known to many as the smiling coast of Africa. When Jojo’s Mag visited the Gambia Tourism stand at the World Travel Market in London on 7th November 2012, we had a chat with the Gambian delegation and according to the assertion of the Honourable Minister of Tourism, The Gambia receives over 100,000 visitors a year mainly from Europe with Brits making up for more than half of the visitors, a fact that is verifiable from several sources on the www. Surprisingly these figures only represent the seasonal visitors coming in during the traditionally promoted tourist season months of November to May when the country is 100% rain free. According to several members of the tourism fair delegation, due to an ever increasing demand from visitors, the country is launching a new strategy to promote what it is calling the “GREEN SEASON” which will run from June to October. This is a period when there are more hotel bed spaces available and the price is right, a hidden secret already known to most repeat visitors. Visiting the Gambia is really cheap. A simple internet search would lead you to unbelievable prices backed by reputable organisations like Thomas Cook, Cosmos and Serenity Holidays (trading as Gambia Experience). Holiday packages are available for all categories of visitors including families, couples and singles.
But what really draws Brits to Gambia? In a separate chat several months prior to our meeting with the Gambia tourism delegation, a Brit who is a frequent visitor shared his top reasons why he keeps revisiting. “You can get everything you need; it’s just 6 hours from the UK within the same time zone; flights and accommodations are unbelievable; food and drinks are cheap; the people are nice-they call you by your first name with a genuine smile, and when you get to know your way
around, you are most likely to visit more than once in a year.” Some of the reasons given above seems to top the list of most travel websites on Gambia. The Gambia Tourism Board website states that UK and EU citizens, and members of the Commonwealth DO NOT REQUIRE A VISA to enter the country for trips not exceeding 90 days and an International Certificate of Vaccination is no longer compulsory for visitors. However, anti-malaria pills are recommended and can be easily obtained from your local GP/doctor. Visitors are also advised to bring along insect repellents, sunburn, anti-fungal creams and disinfectant.
What to expect as a tourist/recommended things to do: The Gambia has most of the things you would expect in any popular tourist destination. However, bird watching has emerged to be very popular with over 500 species of birds. This is in addition to the lively market towns, fantastic beaches, year round sunshine, river tours to see hippos, visit to the Kachikally crocodile pool and historical sites, good cuisines, eco tourism and now: sky diving. Monitoring and maintaining quality standards are now top on the agenda of the Tourism Board to ensure industry standards. Tour operators are required to have public liability insurance and mandatory health and safety checks are carried out on all tour operators and hoteliers. Like in any other country, there are varying standards of hotels, but what is certain is what you may pay for a 3 star hotel anywhere in the UK, will definitely get you the best memorable visit to The Gambia. Reasons to visit The Gambia from the www
Our Recommended websites for more info on visiting Gambia
1. Fantastic winter sun 2. Just 6 hours from UK so no jet lag! 3. Great range of accommodation with a wide range of restaurants 4. Fantastic sandy beaches that stretch for miles 5. Guaranteed sunshine holidays to suit all pockets and taste 6. Beautiful ecotourism. 7. One of the world’s best birdwatching destinations 8. Excellent sea and river fishing and excursion 9. A local English speaking and friendly people with a rich and different culture
1. Gambia Experience (UK Tour Operator) www.gambia.co.uk/ 2. Gambia Tours (Ground Tour Operator) www.gambiatours.gm 3. Gambia Hotels Association www.gambiahotels.gm 4. Gambia Tourism Board www.visitthegambia.gm/ 5. Bird Watching www.birdsofthegambia.com/ 6. International Roots Festival www.rootsgambia.gm 7. Sky Diving Gambiawww.skydivediscovery.com/uk/ index.html 8. Foreign and Commonwealth Office www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-livingabroad/travel-advice-by-country/ sub-saharan-africa/gambia-the/
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Sa HewBirthday Bash of Faith Cole at the Hendon Hotel
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Alive Recycling & Reusing
This is how big Africa is!
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London 2012 Assan Njie ConcertSeneGambian Week Day2
provided by Musa Sarr
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USA July 4th Celebration the organiz s& ers
Provided by AGERA , Atlanta, USA (photo credits Saidou Ndow)
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Celebrating Assumption Day (Sang Marie) by Gambian Christians in USA Day
he Assumption is the celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven by Roman Catholics, otherwise know in the Gambia as Sang Marie Day. Twenty years ago, a few good men and women sat in a little apartment on Buford Highway in Atlanta to celebrate the first Sang Marie Mass with Fr Anthony Gabisi, ever since it has become the biggest Gambian Christian gathering outside The Gambia. For the Gambians, the day marks the celebration of their cultural identity and faith. Jojo’s Mag correspondent in the States, shuttled to Atlanta for a chat with Mr. Vincent Ndow, one of the founding fathers of The Gambia Christian Association (GCO). The GCO is planning the 20th anniversary in 2013 to be like no other.
1. Background - Thank you for giving us the opportunity. Twenty years ago seems like yesterday. Thanks to Fr. Gabisi who was in the United States for Mission Appeal and was planning to visit us in Atlanta and suggested that we come together as Christians to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Three of us, Vincent Ndow, Zack Ogoo and Patrick Njie, immediately put the vehicle in motion, calling and organizing the few Christians around then to take the opportunity to pray and fellowship together. I commend those that responded at the time and many who joined afterwards, because without them, this vision would not have come to fruition. 2. Challenges - we had to work very hard to evolve from an informal undertaking to becoming a formal entity by going through all the legal requirements and other organizational protocols, bylaws and finally adopting a constitution. This required strong leadership drive, focus and the greater aim of leaving behind a legacy for our
children. Finally we prevailed despite the odds stacked against us. The most important amongst these was sacrificing our time, sweat and finance, knowing fully well that if it works out, then all of us will benefit. 3. Sang Marie preparations - The main drawback facing the choir is being able to schedule weekly rehearsals given our different work schedules and family commitments. However attendance gets better during our preparations for Sang Marie. Secondly, we are very thin with our men members and that sometimes is an issue. Another challenge we face preparing for this monumental event is finance because of the huge crowd expected. Our main source of raising money is through monthly subscription from our members. We therefore realized that we will need to position ourselves to become better at fund raising, and encourage our children to participate in the decision making processes, because it’s theirs to carry the mantle and continue what was started. Apart from the Mass, we organise an after party and picnic which is sort of a welcoming reception/forum on Friday as a get-to-know each other event.
finance some various Church organizations and worthy causes in The Gambia. Whimsical thoughts sometimes if carried out can be beneficial to the human race. We came out crawling, feeling our way around but graceful that we are being emulated. 5. Membership - is open to all. Some of the prominent members of the GCO Choir are a product of the Baati Lingeer group based in The Gambia. They are at another plane, but we are nipping at their heels. 6. This Year - we were honoured to have Fr Anthony Gabisi, the first Gambian ordained Priest returned to grace the special occasion of the group he helped founded. The event which has now culminated into an annual pilgrimage attracts a lot of Catholic elders from the Gambia who travelled to the United States at their own expense to come celebrate with us. This year has marked the same results with a better representation from all over the world. 7. Next Year - We have invited His Lordship, Bishop Robert Patrick Ellison to grace the occasion as the Chief Celebrant to our twentieth anniversary and hopefully our request will be honored. We are also expecting the presence of many catholic elders from Banjul and Senegal. GCO Officers for the Term 2011– 2013: President: Yvonne Ndure-Mboob; Vice President/ PRO: Ogis Gomez; Assistant Communications / PRO: James Mboob; Secretary: Marie Ndow
4. Results - It is indeed heartfelt and gratifying to watch the seeds we planted bear fruit. It is a good thing that the word of the Lord is being spread through different forms and medium. But we are not just about celebrating Sang Marie, some of our charity works include partnering with the Knights of St. Peter and St. Paul to clothe the needy and help
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London 2012 Park eventSeneGambian Week Day3
provided by Musa Sarr
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am from a modest family but anyone who lives in the capital region of the Gambia would know or hear about our family. We are plenty, over 15 of us including my cousins and all girls for that matter. Everyman has tried their luck with one of us “the sisters”, but few ever tried to marry any of us. We are beautiful and because we are plenty and poor, our beauty was a commodity on demand and it did bring some resources to the family. I remember growing up with the youngest of my older sisters being more than 10 years older than me, still not married. Regardless, they were our role models, because most of the powerful, influential and rich men showered them with money, by which time our poor parents have become accustomed to turning a blind eye. My oldest sister had already had a child out of wedlock who is just five years my junior. When I was about twelve, one of my sisters got married to a relative. The wedding was celebrated with pride. Sadly the husband was abusive and she had made numerous trips back home with bruises and bumps all over her body, but each time my parents send her packing back to her husband. Within six years she made five baby girls before resigning into being a vegetable vendor in the local market. Her children were always at our house, being fed, clothed and showered by “the sisters” and cherished by their grandparents. They were supposed to be the legitimate grandchildren. I could never understand as a child why all those rich and affluent men never married any of my sisters? All we wanted was to get married. It appears that beauty and poverty were not the best combinations to make the cut for us, because the only suitors who ever proposed were mainly our equally poor relatives. But the poor and religious were not the ones we were aiming for. I grew up knowing nothing better than trying to look good like my sisters, which drew my attention to more rich and influential men, but drove awaysomething I learnt later- all our target men. None of us had any reason to not have hope in being wed by our dates, considering how much money and goodies they kept bringing. They will shower our parents with bags of rice and sugar, cash and the occasional wrist watches for dad, who now perhaps had given on any hope of the rest of his daughters ever getting married. Somehow through faith, we all eventually moved on several years later in similar manner. I met a European man. He was a retired man, as old as my dad. Within months of dating he proposed, and my parents gave another nodding to such a request of one of their daughters. They have now accepted the fact that we are perhaps best married to European men. So we started going one by one, until I became fifth in line to be blessed, if you may call it that. My sisters, who had left before me, inspired us with all the gifts and foreign currency they kept sending, and the fact that they don’t have to deal with all the men that always came but never stayed. However they always complained of the West being a place where people are lonely and isolated. The whole family kept encouraging them to try and cope.
The Semester’s Story – My life in Europe: a journey
I had a wonderful wedding party. I was into skin bleaching then, which made me appear almost white. I was young, slim and beautiful, and my husband was providing me all the material things I needed. He also set me and my parents a monthly allowance. It took almost two months for my visa to come through and then a plane to Europe. In Europe, my husband owns a big and beautiful house in a small village about 5 miles from the city where the airport was located. I was literally its lone prisoner, because my husband had promised himself a life of travels after retirement, so he was always on the road vacationing around the world. Soon cooking became a pass time activity to keep me occupied. I was the only black person, and I didn’t speak the local language of the region, which was not English. I was told that English was common in other parts of the country. I soon realised that money was not happiness. I began to relate to the isolation and loneliness my sisters tried to explain, which back then I thought they should try to cope with, but now find hard to bear myself. Isolation replaced what would have been a life of poverty and a line of men who will never marry me. My husband was caring but very jealous and he protects me like his daughter. I was still looking good, because that was all I had time for. He made sure I got my supply of skin bleaching products posted at any cost from back home. When I receive my supplies, you can see the excitement on my face. By now he had built me a nice house back home, my monthly allowance intact and he continues to support and maintain my parents who now live very comfortably. But after five years of issues, isolation, complaining, boredom and now looking a little bit chubby, my husband and I agreed that I should go home for a change, something I wanted badly. But this was also the time for us to retire from each other. He was never interested in having any children, his youngest child was my age, and he thought it was about time for me to try my luck somewhere else for a child. The fact is, it was actually a two way trying, because I discovered that he had already found a replacement for me resulting from his frequent trips to Thailand. Eventually I went back home to start a life of relative comfort in my own house. But after having lived in Europe for so long, I began to find it hard to live in Africa. It was soon beginning to look like my previous life was about to start all over again, with all sorts of men expressing interest in me. After one year, I decided I would go back to Europe, this time on my own, because I refused to stay and be harassed by a queue of men who are now more interested in moving with me to Europe.
From my savings, I bought a one way ticket on a flight via Zurich to my final destination. In Zurich, I got stopped by immigration. Following a routine check and questions, I was detained because I did not look like any of my identity documents and worst of all, they could not understand how I managed to get residency for a country when I could not speak the local language. I got asked questions in the language, and I could not respond. So I started crying. They appear to care less. Perhaps that’s because they have already seen so many similar tears. On my residence permit, I was very fair in complexion almost white, on my passport I was darker, and on my Gambian identity card, which I had several years before I ever left Africa, I looked skinny dry and very young, and on that particular day, a completely different looking person. Above all, I had a different hairstyle on each document. Now that was confusing even for me, let alone a White man who just like us about them, can’t tell most of us apart. Two days at the airport, in a little room, they couldn’t get to the bottom of things. I observed officers looking at faxed copied of documents sent to them. Finally an officer with better English sat down with me to go through everything again. I explained that I got my papers through marriage, and that am now separated from my husband, yet to be officially divorced. I explained that I was not going back to my marriage house but that I have got enough money, which I spread on the table for him to see, to pay for a few days in a hotel while I look for suitable accommodation. And finally the magic question was asked again. “Can you tell me the telephone number of your husband or where you used to live? I will not call your husband I just want to know if you actually knew where you claim to be from.” I regurgitated the number, repeating it enough times to convince him. To his amazement, but for the fact that I knew no other way of telling the number other than in the local language, he appears to be struggling to understand how I could only say the phone number in the native language of the region of the country I claim to have residency from. He called in a few of his colleagues to listen to me repeat the phone number with a distinct dialect only known to the region where I got my residency from. They all look surprised. There I was, I could not speak the language of my country of residence, but when asked to give my husband’s number, I can only say it in a foreign language I never managed to speak. I told the officer that my husband taught me how to answer the phone using the local dialect which I memorised. He decided to stop the interview. They took a moment to deliberate in their own language. I observed their gestures, smiles, head shakes, and the flipping of papers, comparing identity documents. Finally he said “We will put you on a flight tomorrow to your destination.” What happened after I got to my destination was another life challenging story, but I am in a much better situation now because I have since reclaimed my independence. My life’s story has taught me to believe that this is a woman’s world, and life can be good!
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Fashion exclusive with Model Ndey Oley
How would you describe yourself to someone who does not know much about modelling and fashion? The fashion world is like the world of technology. It evolves everyday. New ideas and concepts are born in less than a second. Growing up I have always been the stylish little girl that everyone thought should be a model. Funny I turned out to be one. Being the only daughter to mum and dad I was a little princess and wanted to be just like mum. She is beautiful, stlylish and very different. I loved using her makeup, dressing up, running around in her heels, regular things that little girls love doing at that tender age of babyhood. I just enjoyed it more than usual. My teenage years were interesting. I am one of those who knew exactly what they wanted to do in life and it is a blessing that mum and dad supported me. They are my number one fans. They thought I would be a great model and supported my dreams of being one. They haven’t given up on me ever since, we are in it together, we are the Taal family. Please tell us how long you have been modelling and why? At 24 Years old, I am just beginning what will be an amazing journey and a story not only for me but my beautiful country The Gambia. I believe I am very different. And I offer something different to the modelling world which is siren and pure. I am beautiful on the inside and it shows through my shoots and it is very rare for a model to be able to project who they really are without being afraid of being vulnerable. I play the part. I have different faces and this always impresses the modelling agencies that I work and have worked with. Every model has a little acting factor to them, it enable us to be whatever the situation presents us to be. What was it like competing in the Miss West Africa UK 2012? Prior to the Miss West Africa UK 2012, I have participated in 2 previous beauty pageants in The Gambia. The first was the Face of The Gambia 2007. I was the 2nd runner up and I was and still proud of it. I made a lot of friends and worked with FAWEGAM in promoting girls education in the Gambia. I was just 18 and it was an eye opener for me to know how blessed I was. It taught me to be grounded and appreciate what I have and how to put it into good use by using my title to empower other Gambian girls just like me. The impact I had on people was amazing more that I could ever dream of. In 2008 I represented MDI in the First edition of the President’s Miss 22nd July Scholarship Pageant. I was amongst 100s of Gambian girls competing; it was one of the most amazing moments of my life so far. It was empowering and educative. I came out First Runner up which won me a Gambia government Scholarship to pursue any course of study up to PHD level to any country of my choice. I am currently in the UK doing a degree in Fashion Design and art at West London College. Taking part in Gambia’s Miss 22nd July scholarship pageant has blessed me in so many ways, and I think I speak for all the girls that have participated in the annual competition. Miss West Africa UK was interesting. I believe I achieved what I did set out to achieve. It was a learning curve for me and I made a lot of new friends from all over the continent. Will I do it again? Absolutely YES. I will do anything for Gambia. I am glad I represented. And the responses from my Gambian people have been great. What is the biggest challenge for any aspiring model? The modelling world is nasty. It is competitive and can be very very demanding. Now it depends on how bad one wants it. But the key things to always remember is to be grounded don’t be exploited. Know when to say NO. I am often asked what it takes to be a model. I think it is not about being beautiful or pretty. It is about being different and free spirited. Being confident in your own skin and stand out for all the right reasons. Confidence is the sexiest accessory any woman or man can posses. The challenges in being a model are many. There are so many of us. With different looks, heights, ethnicity, and we all are trying to do our best to be signed by the best agencies and bag the best jobs. But still the sky is the limit, depending on what one has to offer. I am successful in what I do because of my versatility and personality. What are your future plans in this line of business? My dreams have always been to go back to Gambia, launch my brand then bring Africa to the rest of the world. Put it on the fashion map. I want to showcase African prints, cuts, designs and concepts to the world. Having studied Fashion design in one of the world’s largest fashion capital London, widened my eyes and way the way I see fashion, garments and how to design them by knowing and branding my signature style. I am privileged to have my College in the heart of the capital were everything happens, alongside well known fashion houses and streets that made and still make history in the fashion industry. What I have learnt and the inspirations I will definitely incorporate in my design practice because it is so different to my concept in so many ways but will be great compliment to my work. . I also see a fashion consultancy firm in the pipeline. All in the hope of contributing to national development, I believe in giving back. And the love the Gambia has for me, the support showered on me touches me so much. Whenever I go on Facebook or go through my mails I find heartfelt messages from people in the Gambia and everywhere expressing their love and appreciation for my hard work. This makes me work hard because I know my country awaits.
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Pap Thiopet in Gambia provided by Siaka with permission from Promoter Lamin Cham
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Pap Diouf in Gambia
provided by Siaka
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OOOOO LONDON 2012 The Gambia London 2012 Olympic Team Line-up (From L-R) Momodou Demba-Chef De Mission; Dodou Joof-Team Manager; Saruba Colley-female Athlete; Suwaibou Sanneh - Male Athlete who went up to semi finals in the men 100m; Bamba Njie-Team Coach; Ashley Kausman-Olympic attaché
he Gambia with a population of about 1.6 million has been represented at every summer Olympics since 1984. From the brief exchange of words with the Gambian 2012 Olympics Team Chef De Mission, Mr. Demba, one will note a sense of team achievement, albeit the Gambian athlete’s early exit from the competition. But, The Gambia’s 2012 Olympic results should in fact be consolation for having a two-man athlete team both going home with new personal best records. Just compare the Gambia’s two athlete’s chances against those of the UK’s 557 athletes, USA 534, Russia 441, Australia 414, Germany 395 and China 379, not to mention the resources availed to the those teams. Hopefully, for some teams, at best, it is the effort that matters, so go Gambia! The 2012 Olympics was already stiff competition considering both Gambian athletes are aiming to be pitted against the likes of Usain Bolt and ShellyAnn Fraser-Pryce who went on to take both the male and female 100m gold medals to Jamaica. From the African continent, South Africa with a population 50 million and 112 athletes had the best results at the London 2012 Olympics, going home with a total medal count of 6 comprising of 3 Gold, 2 Silver, 1Bronze, followed by Ethiopia, population 85million, total medal count 7 being 3Gold, 1silver, 3 bronze, and 3rd ranked Kenya with population 41million managed 11 medal comprising of 2 Gold, 4 Silver and 5 Bronze. The Gambians should therefore be proud of their athletes and the team that accompanied them. They should continue to hold their heads high up. The Gambia is yet to win an Olympic medal, but some will recall the Seoul 1988 Games when Dawda Jallow took seventh position in the 400m which for the first time qualified Gambia to an Olympics quarter finals. Suwaibou Sanneh from Brikama town of the West Coast Region who was part of the Beijing 2008 team, was back at the London 2012 Games
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Suwaibou Sanneh & Saruba Colley where he managed to qualify for the 100m semi finals by improving on his personal best and setting a new national record of 10.18 seconds. But Suwaibou did not set the records on his own, as his female counterpart, Saruba Colley from Sibanor braved it among equals when she qualified 9th place in the 100m preliminaries with a time of 12.21seconds to go on to the next round where she also set a new Gambian national record of 12.06 seconds which unfortunately was not enough to progress her to the semi finals. Another former Gambian, Jaysuma Saidy Ndure, who competed at the London 2012 Games represented Norway as a naturalised citizen. Jaysuma changed his nationality from Gambia to Norway in 2006, and currently holds the Norwegian 100m and 200m records while equally acclaimed to be one of the fastest European runners.
It wasn’t all a simple move as The Gambian authorities did not let Jasuma’s move happen without a fight, which resulted in a compromise placing him on a time limited moratorium. This measure was in effect meant to send a strong message to other athletes from developing countries to stop them from switching allegiance to wealthier nations. According to Tijan Masanneh Ceesay, the great Gambian sports commentator of the 80s, the story of Gambian track and field cannot be complete without the mention of great athletes like Banana Jarju, Omar Faye, Amie Ndow, Georgiana Freeman, Jabou Jawo and Peter & Paul Ceesay.
Previous Olympic dates 1984 - Los Angeles, United States 1988 - Seoul, South Korea 1992 - Barcelona, Spain 1996 - Atlanta, United States 2000 - Sydney, Australia 2004 - Athens, Greece 2008 - Beijing, China 2012 - London, United Kingdom Next 2016 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/ countries/8662673/Gambia-London-2012Olympics.html
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Jojo's Mag issue 2