We moved to Bundung in 1979 after a few years in Banjul, Perseverance Street. It was my mom, dad and I. Our little four bedroom Banku Bungno house would soon become a home for many of our extended family members. We had a variety of plants in our compound then. No running water or electricity but love and happiness abounded. Our neighbors to the left of our compound had boys a little older than me but these boys would become my friends and fellow mischief makers. We smoked Banti yomba and stole Camellia cigarettes that we smoked in hushed tones. One of our dreams was to lay hands on some Mary Jane (marijuana). But we were not sure how to lay hands on it. The few pot heads we knew in the neighborhood would chase us away as if we were little urchins. For the cigarettes we stole, those who wouldn’t take a whiff were considered weak and derided for being afraid of a little smoke. We played manyow, daydate and played football anywhere we could. We played Peps (gamble) and Tich Tach with bottle covers. We perfected our wrestling skills and had neighborhood parties where someone always deliberately turned off the lights for some mischief.
We crushed on girls and called them our girlfriends even though none of the girls knew they were our girlfriends (none of us really had the “fit” to talk to them). God help you if you mistakenly called a girl yours when someone else has already laid claim to them. My friend Passi and I almost duked it out over a girl that didn’t know we even existed. We carried buckets of water to go and watch wrestling at the only Arena in Bundung at the time. My favorite wrestler was Jalang and to this day, I want to think that I can maneuver some wrestling moves like he did. That was our Gambian wrestling before we decided to completely abandon ours and copy the Senegalese style. We supported our neighborhood football team initially called Swapo that later changed to Ball. Continue to Rest in Peace Ebou Ceesay. We used Bitiki Ya Yassin (Rest in Peace) as our landmark for directions.
I traversed the length and breadth of Bundung but beyond the faint familiarity of particular streets, I felt like a stranger in a familiar land. I searched the streets I played football on, and could not find where we had our goal posts. The posts have long since been shifted to make way for new houses. I went to the house that kibili the great kutiro drummer used to live, and a new house stood there. I asked the people that live there where was our Kibili, the man with the hardened hands from forcing the drum to speak the language that forced men and women into an ecstatic dance. I was told that our Kibili was no more. Rest in Peace Kibili.
I went to Bundung Murutany in search of the high flying Narrs that danced with swords aloft. Aside from my childhood friend Hamidou Babou’s compound, I could not recognize any others. I went by our old compound, where even the trees have long since wilted and gave way to new houses. I looked for the cola-nut tree by the compound gate and it was no more. That great symbol of Africanism is no more. That is the way it is Oceans says. My Bundung has long gone but I remain perpetually stuck in search for it.
I asked about Amina Bojang and was told she is married and long since gone. That Banna Bojang is well. I asked about my friend Sakou Bojang and was told he has long since passed away. Rest in Peace Sakou. I learned my little Jola from him as we played in their compound. I wandered around my childhood friend Malick Gaye’s compound and almost got lost. The Tallow tree that used to loom large in our lives seemed to have graced with age and is much smaller now perceptually.
I asked for Wuyeh Sambou and wondered if he would remember me. I stumbled upon my older cousin Omar Gajigo and he could not recognize me. I walked by Njien, the home of Balla Njie and no one seemed to notice me. I asked about Ablie Mumuneh and wondered if he would remember me. I went by the streets that we used to play football on and it seems even the streets have moved on. Yet, I continue to live for those childhood memories. The halcyon days. The days of innocence and mischief making. I miss my Bundung!