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, Wollof, Fula
(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:
ethnic groups do have variations in the way they conduct
marriage weddings, funerals,
however, 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.
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.
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.