Gambia Revives Roots Festival to Welcome Africans in Diaspora

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Gambia’s tourism and culture ministry and the country’s National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) Wednesday launched the national organising committee of the national roots homecoming festival.
The launch of the National Organising Committee is the commencement of activities to revive the biannual National Roots Homecoming Festival this December.
The bi-annual root festival which was initiated in 1994 by former president, Yahya Jammeh, was inspired by the publication of Roots in which the African-American author, Alex Haley traced his ancestral link to The Gambia.
The festival welcome descendants of those who were forcefully enslaved through shipment of millions of Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean back to their ancestral home in West Africa.

In 2017, Gambia’s new government announced that the Roots Homecoming festival would be given a new shape and direction, although the 13th edition was not observed in 2018.
Tourism and Culture minister, Hamat Bah pledged government’s commitment to reform the tourism industry by looking into all enabling factors including infrastructure.
“This edition of the festival will have a new look and orientation and spread to all the corners of the country, including Juffureh. However, basically the aims and objectives of the festival remain the same, which is to reunite the people of African descent with Africans while promoting Gambia and her cultural, historical and traditional values.”
By way of the festival, he said truth about the history of Africa and the experiences of its people will continue to show up using African arts, culture, music and dance.
Director General of National Centre for Arts and Culture, Hassoum Ceesay said the event solicits commitment on the part of the organising committee that should extend the room for participation at both national and international levels.
“As previously cited, the main funding/seed money comes from a government vote for the organisation of national events allocated to the MoTC. Other funding are sponsorships from the private sector and parastatals. Revenue generated through fees paid by registered participants is almost negligible. The challenge therefore lies in designing a programme that will generate enough revenue to offset the expenses or make the festival self-sustaining,” he added.
The historian highly graded the move to situate the event during the holiday season, which he said will attract participants from different countries and institutions.
Chairman of the National Organising Committee, Nyang Njie noted that culture being an embodiment of people, Gambia has a noble course to portray her identity and brands.
“Gambia has a very good product which has very good subsets. What we lacked is the ability to synchronise, harmonise and bring everything together in a package and make sure it is in conformity with branding standards so that brand Gambia will come out and be very prominent and visible in what we are trying to achieve.”
The International Roots Festival which was usually held by middle of the year has now been shifted to end of year to accommodate more participants from the diaspora.

Story written by Juldeh Njie

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