Lecture “Kulturelles Gedächtnis und Dekolonisierung: Die Digitalisierung des Nationalarchivs in Gambia”
© Universität Münster | KFG „Zugang“

Africanist Dr. Katrin Pfeiffer (Hamburg) reported on the project “National Digital Archive of The Gambia – Digital Archive Bakari Kebba Sidibe” of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), The Gambia, and the University of Hamburg in her lecture “Cultural Memory and Decolonization: The Digitization of the National Archive in The Gambia” (realized from 2016 to 2022) on 14 September 2023. The lecture was a cooperation of the Centre for Advanced Study “Access to Cultural Goods in Digital Change” and the association “Afrikanische Perspektiven e. V.”

As early as 1956, Bakari Kebba Sidibe – one of the pioneers of the study and writing of Gambian National Languages – began documenting Gambian history and cultures by making audio recordings with elderly people and griots (jali) (singers who contributed to the oral tradition). Today, the archive at the Research and Documentation Division in Fajara includes 5,000 tape and cassette recordings and 1,200 transcriptions and/or translations. This makes this archive not only a true cultural treasure for The Gambia, but it is also unique in Africa. The archive includes mainly recordings from The Gambia, but also from Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. Most of the recordings contain ordered or random performances as well as interviews on history, ethnology/sociology, history of settlement or migration in and to The Gambia, genealogies, music and language arts. The recordings contain about 99 % texts in eight of the indigenous languages of the Senegambia region. The goal of the project is not only to ensure the preservation of all this data, but also to facilitate or enable accessibility to archival data in The Gambia and internationally.

The digital archive is a contribution to the discussion on the decolonization of the country. It provides access to historical sources from The Gambia. The digital archive offers a change of perspective, as history has so far almost always been written from the perspective of Europe or the Western world.

Further information on the project can be found on the homepage of the University of Hamburg.