After an absence of more than 20 years, a national troupe will be establsihed by the Gambian government.
The country has had two national troupes before, but has not had one since the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, led by former head of state Yahya Jammeh, came into power in 1994. It established and then dissolved a troupe that was plagued with financial problems for most of its existence
Jammeh’s troupe had succeeded the country’s first national troupe, which was established in 1974, and is said to have comprised some of the best singing and dancing talents to be found in the country. It was in existence for two decades, participating in various events, including the Festival of Africa Arts (FESTAC) in 1977. But in 1985, the government let it go during the Economic Recovery Programme.
Now the new government, through Minister of Tourism and Culture Hamat NK Bah, has said a national troupe is important for the country’s image and identity.
Bah accused the previous government of “ethnic patronage” and told guests at a ceremony held last month inaugurating a technical advisory committee to look after the national troupe that the Adama Barrow-led government “deems necessary for many reasons”.
“There is no doubt that a troupe that brings together our diverse ethnicities to showcase the rich traditional performance of our people, could serve as a much-needed inspiration for the country to come toget her in this politically polarised time,” he said.
The news has been met with enthusiasm from the local media, some of which have praised the decision to create a national troupe.
“The work which started last week is to be saluted,” reads an editorial from Gambia’s The Point published online today. “It shows that this government has the interest of promoting Gambian cultural diversity. A new national troupe will help to promote national reconciliation and improve our image as a country coming out of 22 years of image battering due to tyranny. Now it is left to the committee to learn from the past and forge a new Gambia national troupe.”
The Point is in agreement with Bah, who stressed the importance of a national element to the troupe, which he said must have “a diverse repertoire from all the ethnic groups of the country, can also serve as a vehicle for preserving our performance traditions and inspire the youth who dabble in the arts to take pride in what is genuinely ours and minimise the infusion of foreign elements in their creative productions”.
While it is unclear when the troupe will be established, Bah insisted on telling members of the technical advisory committee about “the need for consultation with a wide cross section of stakeholders, as well as the need to have a national troupe that takes into account talents from all the ethnic groups”.
From: Music in Africa