Preserving The Gambia’s Cultural Heritage

Over Christmas I was very lucky to be able to visit the small country of The Gambia situated in West Africa south of the Sahara Desert. This trip was primarily for birding and looking for other wildlife and we had the help of our excellent guide, Lamin Bojang.

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Lamin is incredibly knowledgeable, being able to identify everything from flyover sunbirds to calling babblers. He is superb at replicating bird calls and often he will receive a response. His knowledge certainly paid off and we were able to find a number of my ‘must-see’ birds including Bearded Barbet; Senegal Batis and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater.

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A shy Senegal Batis

However, it is not only his bird knowledge he is keen to pass on. Lamin has been working on an excellent project that aims to protect Gambian history for future generations. This project is in the form of the museum for ‘cultural heritage and environmental preservation’, which will be the first one in the community and in fact The Gambia as a whole. He and his team have recently finished constructing the museum building itself and they are now beginning to manufacture strong glass cases to protect the artefacts.

As well as the galleries containing artefacts, Lamin has also constructed a coffee bar at the entrance as well as a bird hide overlooking a small waterhole which secretive and hard-to-see species such as Western Bluebill, Violet Turaco and Green Turaco are known to frequent.

I believe that this museum has incredible potential for teaching both locals and tourists about the culture of The Gambia as well as helping researchers and preserving the heritage for future generations. The bird hide should help to teach the locals what amazing bird life resides in the village or area they inhabit and with the scarcities the waterhole attracts the museum will also be a destination for ecotourists. I look forward to seeing how this ambitious and rewarding project develops.

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Lamin in the future coffee bar

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The bird hide still in construction. Hanging pieces of cloth will be put over the gaps which the viewers can lift to see the birds.

Here are some of the cultural artefacts that will be displayed in the museum galleries:

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