By: Alieu Ceesay
In a vibrant exploration of Gambian literature’s current state and future possibilities, Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe, a prominent figure in the literary scene, shares insights into the challenges and triumphs that shape the nation’s literary landscape.
The literary tapestry of The Gambia is undergoing a transformative phase, with emerging young writers, particularly females, challenging societal norms through their pens. Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe reflects on the current vibrancy of Gambian literature, acknowledging the significant contributions of talented young writers rewriting narratives and propelling the country’s literary development.
While the influx of fresh voices is noteworthy, Sowe draws attention to prevalent issues such as tribalism, party politics, and political affiliations that cast shadows on the otherwise promising literary scene. He delves into the challenges of witch-hunting, backsliding, and unhealthy competition within the literary community, emphasizing the need for unity.
Sowe echoes Maya Angelou’s wisdom, emphasizing the shared humanity that binds us all. He encourages young Gambian writers to embrace and build upon the legacies left by predecessors, notably the Writers Association of the Gambia, which boasts 14 years of profound achievements aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 4.
“The table of greatness has many seats, but the rule is that you don’t sit down with an empty hand. Young Gambian writers should embrace and continue the good work and legacies left behind for us by the former presidents of the Writers Association of the Gambia.”
However, Sowe sheds light on the inconsistency of poor readership among Gambians, especially in schools where foreign books and teachers dominate, overshadowing local literature. The author advocates for increased government, public, and private support to address this challenge and elevate Gambian authors to international visibility.
“Navigating these challenges required exploring online publishing packages aligned with the changing times and modern-day technology. Young people must begin to look outside the Gambia if their dreams of becoming a successful writer are to be achieved.”
In his vision for change, Sowe proposes the ‘Read Gambia’ project and the Gambia Prize for Literature, initiatives to provide financial support and recognition to Gambian writers. He calls for a revival of government support, reminiscent of when Gambian writers had a dedicated desk at the Statehouse, showcasing the importance placed on local literature.
“It surprises me to see young people launching books without the presence of the media or any government, public, or private sector representatives.”
Sowe acknowledges the efforts of Michael Hamadi Secka at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), emphasizing the role of education institutions in fostering a reading culture.
He calls for partnerships between the government, educational institutions, and the Writers Association to achieve the goals outlined in their Plan of Action aligned with SDG Goal 4.
To overcome challenges, Sowe emphasizes the need for Gambian writers to explore online publishing platforms and seek international markets. He urges authors to be paid royalties and secure publishing contracts with renowned global publishers.
As the Young Writers Association of the Gambia, under the auspices of the Writers Association of the Gambia, initiates projects like the Kunta Kinteh International Book Festival and the Gambia Prize for Literature, Sowe emphasizes the non-partisan, non-political, and non-segregationist stance of these associations, promoting unity for the betterment of all Gambian writers.