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 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.