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Gambian Culture, Traditions & Society


Cultural Diversity:
Despite its small size (10,000 sq. km) The Gambia is aSere woman diverse multi-cultural society with many ethnic groups and where most people are as a result multi-lingual. Indeed it is not uncommon to find people being able to speak 3 to 4 local languages. Its size and the tempering influence of Islam in the Gambia context may indeed explain why it has a reputation for being a peaceful country as compared to that of other countries in Africa there is a minimum of inter-tribal and racial frictions.

FulaniThough Gambians themselves talk about belonging to this or that tribe the reality is that with the arrival of the Mandingo, Wollof, Fulbe, and other migrants into the river valley (circa 1200-1800) a lot of inter-marriage and adoption of other cultures and practices has taken place between these different ethnic groups. This has had the effect of blurring what differentiates one group of society from another. Traditionally children will take on the tribal identity of their father.

Culture & Traditions:
Different ethnic groups do have variations in the way they conduct marriage weddings, funerals, however, it is Islam which is the over-riding guide to such ceremonies. Indeed, those that introduced the religion itself back in the 1800's, Dancersjust like Christianity, recognised that some cultural practices had to be tolerated  as long as the principle of the one God was upheld. Furthermore Christians have different local customs regarding births, deaths and marriages. So from the above it would be difficult to try to summarise what Gambian culture and tradition actually is. It is more of a mosaic of cultures that very often overlap and sometimes even merge or absorb other traditional practices such as the some of the Tukulor in the distant past. Furthermore, historically small breakaway groups of a particular tribe has been known to be absorbed by another due to war or voluntarily.  The biggest noticeable difference between people today is class.

Traditional Values:
While urban migration, development projects, andSarahule woman modernization are bringing more and more Gambians into contact with Western habits and values, the traditional emphasis on the extended family, as well as indigenous forms of dress and celebration, remain integral to parts of everyday life. Over 80 percent of Gambians live in rural villages, although increasing numbers of young people come to the capital, Banjul, in search of work and education which has further led to the greater cultural and blood mixing of people.
 




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