The Gunjur Village Museum Gambia is a privately funded project initiated by Mr. Lamin M Bojang who was born and bred in Gunjur village. The main aim of establishing this museum was to preserve and conserve the unique history, culture, tradition and natural heritage of The Gambia, especially that of Gunjur Village. This is why the museum is located in a natural environment.
1: To ensure that historical data is collected and preserved in the museum for the benefit of both present and future generations.
2: To organize an annual conference on matters relating to cultural and natural heritage.
3: To promote tourism in Gunjur village
4: To collect and preserve all significant artifacts and maintain arecords and dates of any important activities affecting the village.
5: To promote and bring back the lost indigenous cultural activities and games to the village .
6: To identify all the cultural groups in the village, help them register with the National Centre for Arts and Culture and help them gain recognition at international level through international festivals.
7: To act as entry point for any researchers who may want conduct research in matters of Gunjur village and The Gambia as a whole.
8: To help facilitate the preservation, conservation and promotion of all the sacred places in the community and to help Gunjur register these as UNESCO heritage sites eg the Sand Mosque at the Gunjur beach, the central mosque of Gunjur village and the Sebendinto sacred place.
Lamin says, "our history is disappearing and our traditional languages are not written languages but spoken only. We have no central record of historical events and the culture of past generations is being lost. It's important we don't let that happen, our culture is too important".
The history of the area known as Gunjur has been narrated by our forefathers and passed from one generation to the next.
This oral history tells us that the first people known to have settled in this area were Bianunkas surname Sanyang of the Biyaro tribe. They settled near a small lagoon close to the Atlantic Ocean called Bolong Fenyo which is now protected by the community as a wild life reserve. The lagoon was believed to be an object of worship and it said that they used to sacrifice a man to the lagoon every year. The Sanyangs still have extensive land holdings in the area of the original settlement.
The second clan which settled this huge territory, but a different location were the Darboe’s. This clan was believed to be more powerful than the Biyaro neighborhood, and were settled somewhere around what is known today as Senga forest. They used to worship idols at a place close to their dwelling place known as Sebindinto, the practice which is still done by the Darboe’s today.
They believe that if you ask the idols for anything your request will be answered and now on special days people come from all over Gambia to join them in their worship. As said earlier, because of their power, they hold authority over the extensive land, and called their settlement Amesang, named after the head of their clan who led them to this place. The last clans to arrive were the Touray’s and Sahos led by a man called Tora
Touray (Sheik Ousman Touray). History tells us that this Islamic saint dreamt of a place of blessings where he would settle, where his progeny and followers would prosper and multiply. He set off from his birthplace in Mali with his family and many followers searching for the place. When he finally arrived near the Darboe’s village of Ameseng he saw things he had seen in his visions. Ma Tora Touray met with the Darboe’s who granted him permission to settle. He named his new settlent Gunjur after his native village in Mali.
The Touray’s practiced their Islamic faith and soon the recitation of the Quran began to attract the Darboe’s children who were not believers of Islam. Gradually even their elders grew interested and were later converted to Islam by Ma Tora. Eventually, the Darboe’s joined Ma Tora living in Gunjur because of their interest in Islam and inter marriage started, the village became one of the three biggest villages in The Gambia which is why it became the district headquarters of Kombo South. In this way, the new settlement of Gunjur grew and became the dominant settlement in the area. The Darboe’s were made the village heads of Gunjur. They in turn accepted the Tourays as imams due to their knowledge of the Quran. Later the Jannehs arrived at the invitation of the Sahos. As the Sahos were charged with the apportioning of things belonging to or affecting the village, the Jannehs had to help their hosts with this responsibility.
The Natural Culture and History Museum
The Natural Culture and History Museum is the only natural, life and cultural history museum in The Gambia and is located in an environment comprising the natural habitat for the indigenous fauna and flora.
However, the Gunjur Village Museum is not only a tourist attraction but this also a research centre for both national and international students who are studying anthropology, history and medicine. The research is lead by Mr. Lamin M Bojang and Mr.Tanko Touray.
Lamin Bojang worked as a senior community park warden, during which time he built up an extensive knowledge of trees, ecosystems and traditional medicine. Mr. Touray, a retired history teacher, assists researchers in the fields of history, culture, traditions and local communities.
Staff at the museum at act as translators between the local community and the external scholars during their time of research. The museum acts as an entry point for any student studying history, tradition, culture and medicine, sensitizing them about local traditions, culture and social structure before they join the community for their research. One condition is that the scholar must deposit a copy of his or her research findings at Gunjur Museum so that our aims and objectives continues
We have already assisted with research for George from Christchurch University in Kent, UK, on traditional herbs, Callum from Cambridge University and Lamin Manneh from Michigan University in the U.S.A
The living museum trip is available seven days a week during the high season and can be booked directly with Lamin through the contact page or through Footsteps Eco Lodge on 7732060
The Artefact Collection is the most important issue in this endeavour and the most difficult task.
Building a structure at the museum is based in physical work but for the collection of the artefacts it is very different. This task is based in our minds, collecting an indigenous belonging/heritage from the historical owner who has been living with that artefact for a life time using it for different traditional works or ceremonies is a hard task.
This has made it difficult for me to collect the artefacts from the people. Some people may even believe I will use their possession to enrich myself.
The biggest concern is that the younger generation place little value on these important treasures so when the elders pass away their off children do not care about their own heritages and sometimes it leads to the loss and destruction of the artefacts. Some are eaten by termites and some sold to the old iron sellers from Senegal for recycling at Dakar .
Lamin employs methodology by sensitisation, sensitising the local people about the significance of the museum in the community and what will happen to their artefact after they die.
Taking an example from the other communities artefacts that have been lost and the traditional values that are now declining. Through this method he is able to acquire some artefacts from his people but mostly using money as compensation or sometimes using other influential village members to acquire artefacts from them.
The dream has become a reality
Volunteers are invited from The Gambia and any other part of the world, especially those who have an interest in history, culture, tradition, and ecology. Volunteers may choose to live at lodges if they wish, or stay with local people in exchange for rent and a contribution towards food during their stay.
Volunteers will be assigned work at the museum as a guide and to carry out any tasks assigned by the curator, helping to develop, document and improve the facility.
Volunteers will work five days a week from Monday to Friday and have two days off to visit other places in the country or to visit friends.