I pay tribute to Alh. A.E. Cham Joof, a great Gambian historian

Friday, April 15, 2011

The demise last weekend of Alhaji A.E. Cham Joof has cost The Gambia its foremost historian. Indeed, he was also a nationalist politician, scout leader, broadcaster, trade unionist, religious leader, Banjul Elder and exponent of Wollof culture. However, I shall premise my tribute on his monumental contribution to the telling of the contemporary history of our dear country. The late Alahji AE Cham Joof possessed many qualities which made him a great historian.

First, he was an avid collector of memorabilia. He kept letters, stamps, invitation cards, voters cards, and similar items some of them dating back to the late 1940s. These are veritable treasure troves for the historian and he used them as primary sources in his numerous writings.

Second, Alhaji AE Cham Joof had in his possession hundreds of rare photographs on many aspects of Gambian history dating to the Second World War. This photo collection also includes poignant images of the halcyon days of Gambian nationalist politics in the 1950s and early 60s. The Rev. JC Faye, IM Garba Jahumpa, PS Njie, DK Jawara are all well captured in the heat of politicking beforeindependence. The funeral in September 1968 of the short lived but highly accomplished PPP Minister, Amang Kanyi is also another theme well captured in his vast photo collection. The Radio Gambia of the 1970s, where he worked, is also documented in his photo collection.

Thirdly, he lived through and participated in much of the momentous historical events of The Gambia of the past 75 years as scout master, trade unionist, political activist with the Gambia Congress Party, later JC Faye's Democratic Party etc. With his lucid memory, he was therefore able to remember dates, epochs, events and personalities in the history of the country.He contested against PS Njie in the 1962 and 1966 elections for a parliament seat in Bathurst. As a widely travelled man also, Uncle Cham Joof had a solid knowledge of the international historical events and their contexts.

I should add that he was a prolific historian. He has churned up more than a dozen monographs on aspects of our history such as the origins of

Banjul street
names, the history of leading Bathurst streets and families, the struggle for Gambian independence, Gambian trade unions, the history of the Gambia scout movement which he joined in the 1930s, and aspects of Wollof culture. Much of these materials are veritable primary sources of Gambian history.

He pioneered the History Corner of the Daily Observer in 1993, and in 1996 he asked me to takeover the column. Since then I have remained his faithful student on the rich tapestry of Gambian history.

He was always a dependable consultant for our museum exhibitions and contributed ideas and material. I sorely miss him. I pray for him to rest in peace.

(Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof, Historian, broadcaster, nationalist Politician born 1924, died 2 April 2011).

Author: Hassoum Ceesay