Gambia: 11TH Edition of Roots Int’l Festival slated for May 9th – 17th

Root FestivalBy Yunus S Saliu

The 11th Edition of the Homecoming Roots International Festival in The Gambia is now slated for May 9th – 17th 2014 with theme “Celebrating Unity through Culture.”

The Roots International Festival is a bi-annual international festival that avails participant the opportunity to discuss common problems as Africans and as well to showcase the country’s cultural assets in diversity. This famous festival that started in 1996 is specially used to celebrate the African forefathers who were taken under duress as slaves to work in different western countries in Europe and America some hundred years ago.

This festival is one of the most internationally recognized festivals from Africa that attracts participation of diverse cultural groups both within, outside the region and the continents.

The roots came about after Alex Haley, a late African-American historian discovered his ‘ROOTS’ in the tiny village of Juffureh and wrote a best-selling book based on his research. This book became a TV series known to millions as “Roots.” 

rootsIn the widely and well-circulated ROOTs TV series film, the Kunta Kinteh Island, formerly called James Island was featured. It is an island on the Gambia River and has for many years now been regarded as United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisation(UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The island bears the remains of a slave fort where Africans were held captive before they were forcibly put into slave ships.

The campaign for this year’s celebration of this must attend festival started since September 2013 as Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie, Gambia Minister of Tourism and Culture convened a press conference at the Africa Travel Association (ATA) headquarters in New York, where they used the medium to sell the 11th Edition of this festival. Prior the press conference the Ministry and the National Organizing Committee accompanied her launched a promotional campaign of the Festival at ATA with a three-city ‘road show’ which included a stopped in New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Ever since then the campaign train continued to other countries like United Kingdom; Scandinavia; Nigeria and other neighboring countries.

The festival which offers a platform to explore The Gambia’s and Africa rich cultural heritage, arts and eco-tourism products, another way ways of bringing African children in the Diaspora together and avail them the opportunity to trace their origins and backgrounds. Among other advantages of this festival is that African brothers and sisters from the Diaspora will be opened to the deep insight of African cultural norms and values especially at the rural communities across destination Gambia.

On this spectacular festival, “The Gambia shares affinity with those who by a tragedy of history now find themselves in the west, the ‘Diaspora’ par excellence, who yearn for a physical and spiritual return to the ‘Motherland!’ For such people, it is more than a festival. It provides the prospect for cultural emancipation and spiritual fulfillment.

To commemorate this year’s edition of the festival, the Gambia Tourism Board (GT Board) and the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) which are mandated to sell the destination Gambia and as well preserve and promote the culture and tradition of the Gambia respectively under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) with the National Organizing Committee for this festival have set aside different activities to make the event memorable and remarkable.

Among the activities are carnival procession of masquerades and cultural groups; Regatta – traditional boat race; Roots Pilgrimage – a trip to the village of Juffureh/Albreda where everyone can pay homage to Kunta Kinteh Island, the ancestral homestead of Kunta Kinteh among other sites of historical importance including the Slavery Museum; Futampaf (Rites of Passage) – this is a Jola initiation ceremony hosted by His Excellency The President of the Republic of The Gambia. During this Futampaf event, guests are to be initiated and adopted into a family inKanilai, the birth village of His Excellency the President. And this will as well feature different cultural dances and Kumpo masquerades.

Suffix to the above, according to Adama Njie, director of marketing GTBoard, a member of the NOC disclosed that there will be musical jamboree as well and local and international musicians.The international guest for the festival included David Murphy; Dr Julius Garvey Dr RunokoRashidi; and star musicians like Mutabaruka; Miguel Collins; Scrachulus and Princess; Tina Jones and more.

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