On 16th January, the people of Janjanbureh staged the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival after a break of decades (the last festival that attracted local and few international visitors was held in the 80s). The 2018 Kankurang festival was attended by both local and international tourists from over 10 identified countries (Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and USA).
The Kankurang, a masquerade tradition associated with the rites of passage or initiation into "manhood" is practiced by Mandinka communities in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. The term Kankurang is referred to as a combination of the Mandinka words ‘Kango’ and ‘Kurango’ which literally translate as “voice” and “enforce” respectively. Thus the term could be said to refer to the empowerment of the voice in order to enforce the rules set by members of Mandinka society. The Kankurang protects the traditions of Mandinka society and gives voice to the young people going through their rites of passage. This initiation is a way of graduating the youth to full membership of their communities by learning the importance of community living.
The revival of the Kankurang festival is part of efforts to preserve cultural heritage and boost tourism in Janjanbureh, thereby creating new economic opportunities for young Gambians in Janjanbureh and surrounding villages. The festival was very exciting with masquerade traditions from the city of Banjul adding to the display by the different types of kankurang.
Youth participation and ownership was very high and they leveraged on the revenue generating opportunities in terms of hospitality, sale of souvenirs and tour guiding services for the many tourists that were there. The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) supported the festival organising committee in collaboration with the National Centre for Arts and Culture, the Gambia Tourism Board and the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism. It is envisaged that the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival will now be an annual event as part of the larger initiative to empower the youth of the Central River Region of the Gambia.
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