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
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 feeding.
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
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 River
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.
As dusk 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.
Nowadays, the festival is generally no longer observed in Gambia
as the young men have migrated to the city.
Culture & Traditions