After five solid years of hard work by the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and its German partners, The University of Hamburg and the Gerda Henkel Foundation for the digitizing project of the oral archives of The Gambia at Fajara, the Gambian Cultural Heritage finally and officially goes digital.
In his speech at the 3-days symposium marking the official launching of the digital archive, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Honorable Hamat NK Bah expressed delight and said the digitization will enhance the visibility and access of the archives.
“It will also improve preservation as now we have dependable backup copies of the material which is a critical aspect of the archive’s survival. The online access, I am told, will be on paid bases, which means that NCAC can generate more revenue from access to the archives researchers. And will only be given if formal research permission is paid for,” the Minister pointed out.
He noted further that online access will enhance the Open Educational Resource potential of the archives for schools and colleges to use to further improve learning and educational attainment. “In this way, the oral archives will enhance The Gambia’s commitments of the UN SDG of attainment of quality education among others,” he added.
Minister Bah quickly expressed profound gratitude to the government to Prof. Schreiber from the University of Hamburg, who since 2015 has steadfastly held on to the idea that the project ‘can happen and has happened.’
He also thanked Dr. Katrin for her great love for the oral archives and The Gambia. “I am cognizant of the generous support by the various German institutions like the University of Hamburg and Gerda Henkel Foundation and wish to thank them through the Embassy staff here present,” Minister Bah expressed appreciation to the partners.
He used the opportunity to also paid tribute to the late Bakari Sidibe who is rightly the founder of the archives, “he deserves our thanks and sincere prayers for his foresight. When he was collecting these recordings in the 1960s onwards, a few people believed in what he was doing and his persistence is what we are harvesting today.”
In an extension, the Minister of Tourism and Culture thanked the NCAC Director General, its Board, and staff for their total commitment saying “in 2017, I was promised that the archives will be taken good care of; I am happy to see that promise achieved and I commend the Director General Hassoum Ceesay for the good work. I must also remember the former DG Baba Ceesay, under whose tenure the project was signed, sealed in 2017.”
The international symposium is currently attended by different scholars from different countries, while 20 academic papers by scholars from the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Nigeria, USA, the UK, Italy, and Germany make the forum a truly international academic session.
However, the Minister said scholars’ presence in the symposium will enhance scholarly pursuits among the youth, especially University students, and motivate them to use the archives for their research on various aspects of Gambian history, culture, and folklore.
Dr. Katrin Pfeiffer, African Language Studies, Asia-Africa Institute, University of Hamburg (Project Quality Assurance); Prof Dr. Henning Schreiber, African Language Studeis, Asia-Africa Institute, University of Hamburg (Project Coordinator, Germany) and Hassoum Ceesay, Director General of National Centre of Arts and Culture also delivered a speech at the opening.