Enter Ramadan: The Gully-Gaza Rivalry Persists
Friday, August 17, 2012
On the countdown to Ramadan, ‘Outasses’ had grabbed the airwaves. The air was filled with pleas for the business community to exercise mercy on the poor Gambian soul. The Muslim community, in general, was asked for increased and improved glorification of Allah in this blessed month.
And especially girls have been pleaded with to shelve their morally-condemned outfits, at least to send the curious mind into a month-long slumber.
This was done for right reasons – religious and moral – not all, though, are covered.
Often neglected by many, including the elite, in the demand for reforms in the dress code, is the need to reclaim what is Gambian. That how we choose to appear – our mode of dress – has economic, cultural and political ramifications.
Unfortunately, despite the pleads, the business community was at its brutal best.
Fortunately, however, young Gambians, whose mode of dress has been a cause for concern, deserve a favourable grading.
Matter of fact, those who have been quite observant would not be caught unawares. Well before this year’s Ramadan, there has been a revolution in the fashion and design industry.
Walking along the streets, one could not help but marvel at how beautifully and princessly looking women are in their indigenous-made outfit common nowadays in town.
‘Dagit’ I was told is the name.
Made from finished products with ‘African origin’, the ‘dagit’ is designed in different forms, styles and sizes to suit women’s varied taste.
Accounts of several women confirm that it is environmentally-friendly – okay for the humid weather.
Clearly, Gambian designers are thinking, so are the tailors. And consciously or unconsciously, young Gambians, especially girls, have fallen for their trap in a way that could result in killing many birds with one stone:
A Gambian identity is reclaimed, moral concerns are addressed, and more importantly, a chain of indigenous economic beneficiaries is created.
It must be borne in mind that those who claimed to come to Africa to ‘civilise’ Africans, be they Arab or the West, unfortunately created an impression in the African mind that many things indigenous African are uncivilised.
Consequently, for an average African to feel that he or she is dressed to the nines, he or she has to either be a ‘sub-Saharan European’ or a ‘sub-Saharan Arab’.
Westernised-African brothers and sisters have to be in Western-styled costume to appear good-looking. It is no difference for the Arabised sub-Saharan Africans.
And the African style of dress is seen to be old-fashioned, meant for the old and ‘uncivilised’.
This is by no means starting over the Blame Game that has far too long allowed African leaders to divert attention from their failures, corrupt practices, and human rights abuses.
It is however important that some of the myths created by foreign occupation and exploitation are demystified, so as to chart a new way forward for Africa, while working to sustaining the impressive economic development the continent has registered in the past decade.
Thus, whoever is responsible for this revolution in the fashion and design industry, ought to be pressed on. There is a need for more thinking into the ‘Dagit’ and innovation to create variety, which, as the adage goes, is the spice of life.
‘Dagit’ needs to cater for every woman - chepes as well as jongomas - and their wide variety of physical outlook – ranging from the tall to short, and slander to ‘mampi’ ones.
At brutal best
For the average Gambian, Ramadan is a moment of nightmares. Not only he endures the trouble in keeping away from food and water from sun-rise to sun-set, but the unfailing hiking of prices of basic commodities beyond his reach.
About a month ahead, fears were raised that already, Gambians are economically stretched beyond limits. That any hike in the prices of basic commodities would be devastating.
Enter Ramadan: The price of low-quality rice which was hovering around seven hundred dalasi shot up to nearly one thousand dalasi.
There is a similar increase in the prices of sugar and other consumables, as well as comestibles.
A sigh of relief was that there was no recurrence of bickering between the government and the business community. Nor did the government robbed Peter to pay Paul this time round.
However, the increase in prices of commodities against many odds had laid bare that the government has no plans, long-term or short-term, to address what has become an unfailing occurrence.
Rivalry in Jamaica’s music industry is a pastime. This became glaringly clear to the rest of the world when reggae legend, Bob Marley, was nearly killed in an assassination attempt on his life. Some said the attempt was politically-motivated. But, even then, the rivalry could not be minused.
Yet, Bob was Bob, and only he was Bob. He escaped in a dramatic style that would inspire his song called ‘I Shot the Sheriff’. Sing along with me:
I shot the sheriff, but I didn’t shoot no deputy
Ooh, ooh, ooh Yeah
Oh, I shot the sheriff, but I swear it was in self defense
Ooh, ooh, ooh
I said, I shot the sheriff, Oh Lord
And they say it is a capital offense
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Marley would witness many more of such envious attacks on him during his life time. After his death, the rivalry continued and spread. Famous dancer, Bogle, undoubtedly became one of the victims when he was shot dead in 2005.
This dangerous rivalry continues to manifest itself in the Jamaican music scene. It reached a fever-pitch recently, when Portmore Empire leader, Vybz Kartel, and Gully Gad Mavado, plunged into a turf war for supremacy in the dancehall.
Interestingly, this war, far, far away in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica spilled over to The Gambia, a tiny west African country, reputed as Junior Jamaica for its love for the reggae music.
And Gully loyalists in the country would often clash with Gaza loyalists. Sadly, as in Jamaica, this sometimes ended up bloody.
But the warring Gully and Gaza camps have since reconciled and the rift created among Gambian youths has also been somewhat mended.
However, at the Gambian ghettos where there is constant hunger for debate, a division akin to the Gully-Gaza was rekindled recently.
This was in the wake of the unresolved, bitter differences within the Gambian Muslim community on the timetable for the observance of feasts like Ramadan and Tobaski.
M.S. Joof, a professional colleague and a friend, explained that at his regular, his colleagues who began fast on the Supreme Islamic Council’s pronounced date, jokingly though, were labeled to belong to the SIC camp. Those who refused to go along with the council were said to belong to the Imam Ba-kawsu Fofana camp.
But, this division, more dangerous than the Gully-Gaza, goes beyond a ghetto affair. At homes, families are divided. In some villages, Imams have resigned because of it. At the national level, it has turned into a political issue, rather than religious. As a result, the Islamic leaders are even more divided than the ghetto youth. In fact, there, it is all together a different atmosphere – that of bickering, insults, personal attacks, and competition for political recognition.
Shortly before the Ramadan, the Islamic council-aligned oustasses, who apparently had more access to radio and TV, launched their offensive against those with different views. What avenue did what the ghetto boys call ‘the Ba-Kawsu camp’ has, in an environment where diversity of opinion is punished?
Author: Saikou Jammeh