Fishing Festivals in
The Upper and Lower Saloum Districts also called Pakala are
well watered by the Nianija Bolong and countless other creeks
with ponds fed by the rains. There is hardly a village or
settlement in the district that is more than a kilometre away
from a water body. Fishing is therefore and important occupation
for people in these areas with many settlements having sizeable
fisher communities called chubala who are itinerant fisher
folk who fish for pastime as well as to supplement the family
Every year in
the midst of the high season around April, Gambian villages hold fishing
festivals which attract many young people from neighbouring villages.
It is not a festival of merriment. What simply happens is usually a
gathering of village young men at a water point to catch fish using
different types of fishing tools.
Professor David Gamble writes in his book 'The Wollof of the
Senegambia' (1957) that such festivals marked the end of the rest
period between the harvest time and the onset of the rain when work on
the new crop would start. The English explorer Richard Jobson
describes this festival in his journal on his visit to the
Gambia in 1623 showing that it has a strong past.
The fishing soon starts with baskets, spears, harpoons, nets
called Jola, while some use their bare hands. The latter method is
called noho noho. It is done under the undergrowth of the pond, where
lazy fish such as catfish or kono kono hide.
At Panchang in the
Upper Saloum, these fishing meetings take place every Wednesday at the
numerous ponds such as Daybantang and Wehweh. The fishermen from the
village and other nearby settlements would start to gather after the
midday prayer in the village square. When there were enough people the
group would then move together to the pond. Supplicants were offered
to invoke protection from mishaps such as snake bites and other
injuries before the young people enter the ponds.
approaches, the fishermen start retreating to the banks. Then small
fires are lit to roast some of the catch, such as the crabs. The
fleshier fish catches of shallow water fish such as tilapia and
catfish are taken home for the family pot.
festival is generally no longer observed in Gambia as the young men have migrated to the