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close this bookThe Courier N 123 Sept - October 1990 - Dossier Higher Education - Country Reports: Barbados - (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)
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The curier’s mailbag

More cultural articles, please

There is a need to expose more cultural writings and authentic African, Caribbean and Pacific-centred readings, as you all are very aware of the cultural imbalance in the continent of Africa itself. The usage of symbols that are entirely connected with the European incursions of the past must be re-evaluated.

In this re-evaluation, your future Couriers should carry more readings in the area of cultural exposure... Moreover, your presentation of African writers in their original/authentic language is something that we, as a whole, need to see more of. Keep in mind that all of the countries of the world have an authentic voice. It is long overdue that Africa starts to claim its own. Even if, for compromise sake, all of the Africans nations adopt a common African tongue and thus, begin to unify itself through its common tongue.

I know that there are many other problems of immediate concern, but I think The Courier should be instrumental in contributing to this lofty endeavour.

Eduardo A. Cong, Santee, California, USA

Far east, not far west

In your September-October 1988 issue (News Round-up), you stated that the Upper River Division is in the far west of the Gambia. This is incorrect; it is in the far east of the country.

Pateh K. Jallow, Basse, The Gambia


I read the article on Sierra Leone and to be frank, it surprises me to know the help this country has been getting from the EEC and its allied agencies over the years. I am sure without your aid, life and development would have been in a shambles.

Frederick Q. Amonoo, Koidu Town - Kono, Sierra Leone

Oral tradition and culture in Gambia

Reading through The Courier of January-February 1990, I came across a very significant issue, that of African oral tradition and heritage.

The Gambia is one of the countries in Africa that has a very rich tradition and to date the average Gambian has respected tradition - in fact the whole society is virtually controlled by tradition. For example, ceremonies like child naming, marriages, funerals and mourning, to name a few, are still performed traditionally. The traditional link between families largely still exists in The Cambia.

Coming to the art of story telling and proverbs, visiting Gambia in their different Kundas (family homesteads) one finds old family members, sitting on the “bentengo” surrounded by young members of the family listening to stories of events pertaining to rulers, devils, witches, sacred trees and ponds, etc.

This tradition of story telling has a very important role to play in the family; one, it helps to educate young people so that they know about themselves and their people. For it is said that a people without knowledge of themselves cannot be proud of themselves. Two, it maintains the unity of people; and three, it kindles the spirit of young people.

Proverbs act as a polish to language communication. In the real Gambian family, old people with the mastery of proverbs are highly respected, and invited to most important gatherings. As our old people say - proverbs are like sauce to cook rice, it enriches the food, and gives the eaters appetite.

As in other African countries, The Gambia has meaningful proverbs, and hardly does one talk without bringing in proverbs.

Here are some common Gambian proverbs.

(1) The blind man will think of doing everything except jumping over a well.

(2) A hen with chicks should not jump over fire (meaning that if the hen escapes the chicks will not).

(3) Trousers will not accuse loin cloth of foul air (meaning that a bad person should not accuse another bad person).

(4) If you carry a hyena on your back, dogs will hark at you. ( That is, if you are a leader, people must talk of you).

Finally I take this opportunity to congratulate the Nigerian Association of Oral History and Tradition (N.A.O.H.T) for the big stride they have taken to make Africans gain awareness about their tradition.

Khaddy S. Konteh, Banjul, The Gambia

The importance of Shona

I was very interested in your article on the use of Shona in Zimbabwe. I spent two and a half years in Zimbabwe (in Masvingo) and I cannot but confirm what a good job Kwayedza has set out to do.

For the benefit of your readers, I should like to add that Shona is spoken by almost 10 million people, particularly in Zimbabwe and a small part of Mozambique, so it is quite important in the African language context.

I wrote the first Shona textbook in German. It is called “Pamberi nechiShona”, runs to 160 pages and has a large number of drawings, some photographs and German-Shona and Shona-German vocabulary. It also contains a short, well-illustrated 45-page tourist guide called “Fambai zvaka mu Zimbabwe - Have a nice trip to Zimbabwe”, containing English-Shona and Shona-English vocabulary.

Harald Vieth, Hamburg, Germany