Despite its small size (10,000 sq. km) The
Gambia is a
diverse multi-cultural society with many ethnic
groups and where most people are as a result multi-lingual.
Indeed it is not uncommon to find people being able to speak 3
to 4 local languages. Its size and
the tempering influence of Islam
in the Gambia context may indeed explain why it has a reputation
for being a peaceful country as compared to that of other countries
in Africa there is a minimum of inter-tribal and racial frictions.
Gambians themselves talk about belonging to this or that tribe
the reality is that with the arrival of the Mandingo,
(Fulbe), and other migrants into the river
valley (circa 1200-1800) a lot of inter-marriage and adoption
of other cultures and practices has taken place between these
different ethnic groups. This
has had the effect of blurring what differentiates one group of
society from another. Traditionally children
will take on the tribal identity of their father.
Culture & Traditions:
Different ethnic groups do have
variations in the way they conduct marriage weddings,
it is Islam which is the over-riding guide to such ceremonies.
Indeed, those that introduced the religion
itself back in the 1800's, just
like Christianity, recognised that some cultural practices had
to be tolerated as long as the principle of the one God
was upheld. Furthermore Christians
have different local customs regarding births, deaths and marriages.
So from the above it would be difficult to try to summarise what
Gambian culture and tradition actually is. It is more of a mosaic
of cultures that very often overlap and sometimes even merge or
absorb other traditional practices such as the some of the Tukulor
in the distant past. Furthermore, historically small breakaway
groups of a particular tribe has been known to be absorbed by
another due to war or voluntarily. The biggest noticeable
difference between people today is class.
While urban migration, development projects, and
modernization are bringing more and more Gambians into contact
with Western habits and values, the traditional emphasis on the
extended family, as well as
indigenous forms of dress and celebration,
remain integral to parts of everyday life. Over 80 percent of
Gambians live in rural villages, although
increasing numbers of young people come to the capital, Banjul,
in search of work and education which
has further led to the greater cultural and blood mixing of people.
Culture & Traditions: