By Momodou Jarju
The literary sector of the country needs surgery to develop and support writers, the young ones in particular, according to the new Secretary General of the Writers Association of The Gambia (WAG).
Modou Lamin Age-Almusaf Sowe in an exclusive interview with this médium, faults the previous executive for performing below expectation and expressed optimism that the new executive comprising the youngest members, will endeavor to change the narrative.
“The old people have failed to provide us with what we wanted and this is why they look up to young people like us and selected us during our congress, to take ownership of the leadership and provide the required projects and support for young people in this country,” Sowe said.
Quizzed on how the previous leadership failed writers in this country, Sowe said WAG has never published a single work of a Gambian since its establishment, and the Association has failed to have a secretariat; that they were unable to organize a literary prize and could not mobilize funds to finance projects for members of the association.
Barely three years from exile in Senegal, Sowe said his return is timely; that he left Gambia for Senegal in May 16th 2016, in fear of persecution for a film he produced about former President Jammeh’s cessation of power; that he returned to the country on March 8th 2019. “When I came, I had to initiate a literary prize during World Book and Copyright (WBC) Day celebrations to ensure we honor Gambians who have immensely contributed to the socio-economic development of this country through writing. I made sure that we desist from honoring people when they die, and honor them for their outstanding work when they are still alive.”
Twenty-seven Gambian writers were awarded in honor of literary erudition during WBC day in at the Alliance Francaise and Ebujan Theatre respectively.
Sowe further said young people in the country are raising the clarion call in all sectors and literature is not an exception; that a substantial number of youth are engaged in writing and need support and empowerment to excel. “This was what motivated me in 2012 to establish the Young Writers Association (YWA) where we will have a responsive and responsible membership who can address the challenges of young people in this country, in terms of writing,” he said.
While in exile, Sowe travelled widely across Africa. He said his experience made him discover that Gambia is the only country without a serious book publisher. “The publishing houses or industries here are business entities, who use garbage in garbage out system in their work. You take your manuscript, pay them and they print for you. That is all they do. Printing,” he said.
ML said these are some of the plights they intend to address through partnering with the US Embassy and other agencies, in order to send young members to study publishing and help shape the country’s literary sector upon their return.
The former teacher-librarian said it is part of their plan to have book publishing budget forms meant to support young people for wider publishing within and outside the country; to revitalize writers clubs in Schools and embark on a nationwide tour to all regions in the country.
He said they are making efforts to partner with the relevant institution mainly the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC), as well as UNESCO who have been funding the association since its formation.
About ML Sowe
Sowe holds a double diploma in English and French and a bachelor’s degree in Library and Information studies. He recently launched his book entitled “The Memories of Reflection” that was approved by MoBSE in 2014. He is awarded the young Gambia writer of the year and winner of the children’s literature prize 2019. He is recently named Gambian representative to the writers Space Africa and the Pan-African Writers Association. He is the founder of YWA.