The Gambia is one of the countries with a rich history in Sub-Saharan Africa. But lack of proper record handling has led to the loss of some of its historical records.
This prompted Hassoum Ceesay, one of the country’s historians, to embark on a historical collection mission to digitalize them for posterity keeping.
He said the loss of history is due to some people’s lack of interest in knowing their past while blaming others for lack of understanding made by disregarding certain developments with historical connotations.
He said he is always ashamed of how some Gambians react to historical issues wrongly, adding some people are missing the simple dates of recent past events at the ongoing Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.
“It is all lack of historical knowledge. So, we should train historians to restore our identity as a nation because a country without a historical record is a country without identity and direction. Preserving our history and culture is going to boost our economy and restore our identity. We should encourage the study of our history. Gambian history is still there to be researched and written about,” he said.
For his part, he has taken the challenge to head the National Center for Arts and Culture, a department under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture mandated to preserve the national history. He’s also serving as a lecturer at the University of The Gambia to make history an important subject for the new generation of students.
“I’m happy that even at the university, people are studying history at master’s level. It shows that, at least increasingly, there is a sort of priority in the study of history, and the discipline is being given priority. I think it should continue like that,” he said, adding there is a new core of historians coming up.
Ceesay disclosed that his department has already recruited new staff to help achieve the goal to uncover the missing history. However, he emphasizes the need for resources such as in the area of digitization of databases for posterity keeping. He also expressed the need for capacity building in digging the missing records.
“We need a professional archivist. We need a museologist for museum conservation, exhibition design, and museum education so that when school children come to our museums, they can enjoy it.”
“Ninety percent of our history is still under the ground,” he said. “So, in that area, we need the capacity to have archeologists, and we need anthropologists. We need all these if we want to maintain our history and culture for posterity because they give us identity, and they are economic,” he said.
Ceesay emphasized that it is important for people, even outside the government, to support the sector to develop historic sites, give scholarships for people to study history, and develop museums and archived for posterity.
“These are our identity, and if we lost them, then we have nothing to boast about as a people,” he concluded.