The Uniqueness of Gambian Kal or Sanawuya Relationship


Lamin-SaballyBy Lamin Sabally, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Some years ago, I beautifully wrote an opinion article touhing on the long-established importance of joking relations between and among different regions, tribes and clans in the Gambia and attempted to neatly portray its entrenched exceptional significance in bolstering the unshakable cohesiveness of Senegambians. The Kal or Sanawuya/ Dankuto as known in the Wolof and Mandinka dialects respectively, is a documented national-cherished treasure, and its continuous relevance in the maintenance and fortification of peace, stability and co-existence in Senegambia is infinitely rewarding. The numerous positive responses that article engendered on the pages of the now defunct newspaper were pleasantly great as all the contributors including, the self- proclaimed Prince Baburcarr Sankano, gave their unanimous unconcealed approval of the mammoth reputation of the joking relationship in our social cohesion.

Certainly, we have our chronic distinctly sharp contenting opinions covering vast areas in our political, social and human relationships. Despite, during some of the hugely disturbing, polarizing and turbulent circumstances with the likelihood of having tempers flared up, a delicate, precise and selective injection of some mollifying joking gibes does tremendously help to instantaneously neutralize the heated and stinging arguments to prevent them from steadily degenerating into probable antipathy that could equally deteriorate into irreparably damaging proportions. Arguably, this is where the Gambia, known as the Smiling Coast of Africa, gets its uniqueness as a peaceful, accommodating and friendly country in the Africa, and the Kal or Dankuto system reliability as one tested effective weapon in our conflict resolution and management reservoir simply sufficiently intensifies and crystalizes the tranquility of this small but an epitome of a peaceful country among nations in the world.

Gambians are known to be passionately peace-loving and law-abiding people wherever they might be, and  many positive concrete testaments to this proven assertion is especially exemplified among those in the Diaspora with the noticeably very low crime rate. The probable common problem plaguing most diaspora Gambians is limited to immigration law violations that are suggestive of typical cases of overstaying their visas or going out of status, and hardly will one read or hear news about Gambians involve in violent crimes like murder, gang-related, rape and things of that nature. The few infrequent cases, if they are to occur, are always determined to be terrible isolated and unfortunate tragedies going by the unanimity of reactions from Gambians describing those few unfortunate cases as purely alien to Gambian culture. We are also very forgiving and caring and to this fact, I can adequately testify without a modicum of doubt. When a Gambian died last year here in Minnesota for example, the swift responses the Gambian Association received for its request for financial help to evacuate the remains for burial in the Gambia was astoundingly overwhelming. The consistent outpour of the benevolence, sympathy and sincere support of Gambians all over were truly adequately demonstrated. I can attest to this as the current Secretary General of the MN Gambia Association. I am sure the story has been the same in other US States that had experienced similar tragic circumstances.

Because of the recognized exceptionality of  our joking relationship, it has been convincingly argued in some conclusive research findings that the world would have been a better place with a few to zero devastating social, religious and political upheavals, if this national treasure of ours is thoughtfully replicated in the trouble-plagued countries. In my judgment, for students majoring in Global Affairs with concentration in Conflict Management, it will be worthwhile to consider writing a Master’s thesis or Doctorate Dissertation about the effective use of the Gambia joking relationship in managing and resolving conflict in The Gambia, and propose to utilize the replication of this method in the management and resolution of conflict in the global area.

In summation, readers will concur that joking relationship has both geographic, tribal and clan dimensions in the Gambia.  In terms of a regionalized aspect for instance, it exists finely between Kiang and Badibu, Jarra and Niumi, Kombo and Kabu, while the tribal joking bond occurs between Mandinka and Sarahule, Jola and Fula and Serer, and Jola and Toucouleurs. The domain of clan Kal or Dankuto includes Sabally and Ceesay, Camara and Ceesay, Touray and Sanyang, Njie and Jobe, Jallow and Bah, Jaiteh and Drammeh, Jawneh and Sillah and this merely indicative long list goes on.

With that vital satisfactory acknowledgement, this article scoops a few humorous and blistering jibes between Kiankas and Badibunkas. Readers are assured that these are true stories that unfolded recently. As a Badibunka myself, I will be absolutely impartial and will narrate the exact way the two stories were authoritatively gathered from solid grapevine sources.

Episode 1 involving a Kianka

In an exciting determination to travel to Europe through the infamous “back way” route, a Kiang boy enthusiastically paid up a few hundred dollars to a syndicate of smugglers. The Journey started by bus from somewhere in the Kombo through Farafenni-Senegal border into Dakar. Deliberately, the smugglers arrived in Dakar, around 6PM. As darkness steadily sets in, the scam smugglers asked the would-be Europe-bound boys to board a small boat in Dakar. By mid-night, the smugglers docked by a very illuminating and beautiful area in Dakar and told their unsuspecting passengers that they have now reach Spain and asked all of them to disembark. They provided some temporary hideouts for group of young men, and the unknowingly hoodwinked passengers were diligently advised to remain in these hideouts till early morning before venturing out.  During the wee hours of the morning, the boy from Kiang came out of the hiding and forcefully jumped in the air and shouted repeatedly in high celebratory move uttering the following  exact words in Mandinka “  Waw, Waw Boy, N’yah Maykela Babylon” , meaning boy, I made it to Babylon.  To his utmost incomprehension as his roamed the beautiful streets in Almadies, Dakar, he continuously heard people speaking Wolof and without seeing any white people in the whole vicinity, he became increasingly suspicious and nervous, until he was accosted by a passerby, and when he asked which part in Spain he was, the dumfounded passerby said this is Dakar and not Spain. To his astonishment, the kiang boy started raining typical Kianka- style assortments of insults on the con smugglers who had now completely disappeared without trace in show of his frustration and deep pain.

Episode 2 involving an old Badibuka man

An old Badibu man was nearly knocked down by a car in remote village and overwhelmed with fear, he fell down unconscious. He was then immediately evacuated to Banjul at the then RVTH, now Edward Francis Teaching Hospital by the same worried driver. Once he regained consciousness at the hospital, he saw nurses and doctors in white gowns and with the additional  brightness of the whole place, he started to repeatedly  smile delightfully and loudly saying “Alhamdu Lil Lahi Rabil Ala Meen,  Allahu Akbar, I thank GOD and GOD is great, thinking he was dead and now admitted  to Jannah or paradise.

In an instant effort to calm him down gently, one of the doctors asked; what is your name? The Badibou man joyfully replied “When I was in Duniyaa, (World), I used to be called Sambujang and here in paradise (Jannah), I don’t know how you Maliakas, (Angels) would want to name me. Go ahead and give me whatever name of your choice as long as I am here at my desired place of Arajannah (Paradise)”. He was under the delusional impression that the white-gowned doctor was a selected angel performing a divine examination of every new dweller into Jannah. The doctor clarified, this is not paradise, but a hospital narrating details of the man’s ordeal. Surrounded by his wife and children, he immediately started to cry profusely for the disappointment and abrupt termination of his perceived paradise admission dream.

With these hilariously funny true episodes, please look out for some real blistering jokes between Jarakas and Niuminkas. For now thought, the impeding civil case between the head of the Baboon Empire located in the heart of Jarra and the Chiefs of Jarra over serious accusations of perennial territorial encroachment is understandably still pending at the Gambia Supreme court. I am told the case is inadvertently stalled because of the acute difficulty being encountered in the choice of a qualified judge to adjudicate the abnormally dramatic case that is also aggravated by the sheer lack of relevant sections in the second Republican constitution to be used as the legal premise to kick-start this super complex case. Until the painstaking legal dilemma is resolved, which may need a national referendum for constitutional amendment, the Jarankas and the Baboon community will need some kind of truce to be likely brokered with the solicited intervention of the Niuminkas with whom they have some very strong joking ties often infused with peppery and mind-blowing invectives.


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