Being born and grown up in a relatively rustic big village was something I had never chosen but would probably have opted for that if I had the opportunity. In any case, that was my beginning as nature would have it. My birthplace and that of my parents is Kanni-Kunda in Western Jarra, Lower River Region. It is a rural village located 120 miles east of the Gambian capital Banjul. My village was founded by a renowned Islamic scholar by the name Mama Yorro Saidykhan [named Adama at birth] whose ancestors hailed from Futa Toro in Senegal. Small as it is, Kanni-Kunda has a very rich history and according to my grandfather, the original founder of the village forbade beating of drum in the village. From the historical facts, beatings of drum culminated in monstrous fires that engulfed the whole village, burning down everything into ashes. Besides, doom awaits anyone who beats drum in Kanni-kunda. The last fire broke out while hunters were performing rituals for their colleague who fought and killed a wounded lion. Such ritual, which is marked by drumming and singing of traditional songs, is meant to protect the lion killer from evil spirits. I don’t know the exact date of this incident which perhaps took place in the 50s. Since then, an embargo had been placed on drum beating in this highly religious village snaked between Sankwia in the north, Karantaba in the south and Soma in the west. All activities of drumming are carried outside the village. The village is well known within the Jarra region and its vicinities for being a Sacred Seat of Islam.
I grew up in the village like a normal African child. I can vividly remember the days when we used to hunt for rodents, squirrels and other animals in the bush. With the help of our trained dogs, we would happily come home with the carcasses of either squirrel or rabbits. These animals would easily be found and scared out of their hideouts before the energetic, nimble-footed dogs preyed on them. Rabbits would normally hide in under grown trees, and it would take the slightest noise, such as a mouth whistle, to send them fleeing and racing at supersonic speeds for their dear lives. While we hunted, someone would catch sight of an animal before yelling out, “It is there. Look at it beyond the tree.” All of a sudden, a frantic chase would begin. Generally, our dogs too were not second fiddle to our preys, even rabbits, in terms of swiftness and pace. These dogs would then give ferocious chase even before we would say ‘shoo’, the sound we used to alert dogs to action. Catching a rabbit in flight was always difficult and exhausting for both us and our ever-ready dogs. However difficult it was, our dogs usually outsmart and catch the rabbits. Our dogs were trained to catch but not to eat their prey. We would sometimes hunt for most of the day enveloping the bushes before returning home with the carcasses of rabbits, rats, porcupines, squirrels and on rare occasions, bush fowls. We would make holes through their necks and insert a strong stick such that they would be hanging on either end of the stick. We would then sling the stick on our shoulders and bounced home triumphantly. Our shirts would be always soaked in blood dripping from the gaping holes of our victims’ necks left by the sharp knife blades.
The hunting adventures were always big test of our strength and stamina as young rural boys who grew up full of mischief but also determination; determination to prove that we were worth every inch of our flesh. Teenagers like us were supposed to be adventurous and out-pouring with activities such as hunting. So we never relented in this and many other masculine-related activities.
Upon arrival at home, curious little boys and girls would crowd around us brimming with excitement, admiration and eagerness to feed their inquisitive eyes on our victims. While some of them would cowardly stand at a distance away from the carcasses, daring ones would squat or sit close to them with administration. In fact, they would even hold their tails and drag them playfully chasing and threatening the cowards who would always make the best use of their legs. After taking some respite and rejuvenation from bowls of rice and jars of cold water, we would set ourselves on skinning carcasses. Apart from water, the only ingredient we would normally usually needed was salt to cook the meat. We roasted the meat only when we felt hungry in the bush. Friends and siblings would be invited to join us for a big feast. We would put the meat in big plates and sit around them rewarding ourselves bounteously for being very good hunters.