By Yunus S Saliu
Director General of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has reminded everyone about the authenticity of the Kankunrang in the Gambia and Senegambia as a whole, saying it is not a masquerade for a joke that anyone can use to commit any crimes in the community.
The erudite historian, Mr Hassoum Ceesay emphasized that the “Kankurang is not a joke, it is a serious aspect of The Gambia culture and history which is why the NCAC has established a Kankurang Center and Museum in McCarthy for everyone to visit and learn about it.”
Visiting the Kankurang Center, he said, is not limited to only school children and tourists but also to everyone who would like to know about the Gambia’s culture, tradition, and heritage.
Mr Ceesay who was reacting to a question posed before him about the pretense of two Kankurangs suspected thieves arrested by the police for disguising as Kankurang to enter houses, to commit a crime, said Kankurang is an authentic tradition that UNESCO recognized as one of the cultural heritage of the Gambia “we should respect it, respect its authenticity and integrity and nothing should be done to dilute its significance, format, and form because it is not a masquerade to be used to commit a crime.”
He added, in the traditional sense, a Kankurang is a mobiliser, policeman, and protector meant to protect the community from any mishap.
However, the director of the custodian of the Gambia culture, tradition and heritage described Kankurang as a highly respected and valued aspect of the Senegambia culture and heritage which is a Manding masking tradition that dates back to hundreds of years. It is so important that it is found in various forms in The Gambia, part of Senegal, and Guinea Bissau.
DG Ceesay decried that it is highly unfortunate that such an important cultural heritage which was listed in the Kankurang as one of the 43 cultural expressions and practices that constitute Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity should be misused in such a manner that it is not meant for.
“The NCAC worked with the UNESCO and with our neighbouring colleagues in Senegal to have the UNESCO listed it as intangible Masterpiece of Humanity in 2005 that’s why we established the Kankurang Center in Janjanbureh town, Central River Region (CRR) and revived the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival in McCarthy with the community people for everyone to learn about this unique masquerade,” DG Ceesay explained.
However, he disclosed some of the significance of the Kankurang and its community and regional variations and urged anyone that wants to see the real Kankurang as an object to visit the Museum in McCarthy called the Kankurang Center where there are lots of materials that are related in form of text like the Kankurang, its significance, types of Kankurang costumes among others.