Tribute: Alhaji Demba E.M. Sanneh (1952-2018) culture administrator, researcher and community elder

Friday, February 02, 2018

A colleague sorely missed!

Alhaji Demba E.M. Sanneh who passed away 30 January 2018 in Bakoteh aged 65 worked with the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) as Administrative Manager and researcher from the institution’s founding in 1989 to 2008. He returned briefly in 2013 on contract as research consultant based at our Research and Documentation Centre in Fajara.

Mr. Sanneh was born in Sika Village in the North Bank Region in 1952 and trained at the Njala University College where he graduated as an agriculturalist in 1975.  Next For the next fifteen years he worked in agric extension, community development, and in the hotel industry where he made his mark and garnered a wide spectrum of experiences and a vast network of acquaintances.

In 1989, the PPP government established the NCAC bringing together the Antiquities and History  Division, Oral archives, National Museum together under one roof, so to say,  charged with the mandate of conserving, promoting and interpreting Gambia’s heritage and arts. He worked with three Executive Directors(Burama Sagnia, Bakari Sidibe and Momodou C.Joof) to set up the administrative framework of the new institution and put it on a sound footing.

He had a sound and profound knowledge of Gambian culture, especially chieftaincies. He once narrated to me how he remembered very well the internecine conflict between the great chief Sora Dabo and some of his court members, and the rule of the Sonkos in Niumi, starting from Maranta to the well known L.O Sonko, who ruled from Sika.

At a young age also, Mr. Sanneh was active in the 1960s Bathurst radical politics led by the Kent street vous, and told me that he participated in the 1969 anti Senegal riots in Bathurst organized by the radical hotheads like Saja Taal. ‘Saja held me by my arm and asked me to burn tyres at Albion Place’, he narrated to me in one of our many discussions of contemporary Gambian history.

Mr. Sanneh understood rural Gambia very well such that he was always very resourceful when it came to field work in any part of the country. He knew the point of penetration in every community for a serious researcher. In 2008, he retired from the NCAC and was asked by the ex-Gambian president Jammeh to research the heritage sites of Foni. He did a good job and a book came out in 2009 titled Kanilai: A Guide to Heritage Sites. This is a unique book on the cultural sites in this part of our country.

Mr. Sanneh was a good colleague who was always forthcoming with advice, always helpful and ever persevering. I, like all stakeholders in the arts and heritage sector, will sorely miss him. To his family, many friends and relatives, I offer my sincere condolences.

(Alhaji Demba E.M. Sanneh, culture administrator, researcher and community elder, born in Sika in 1952 died in Bakoteh 30 January 2018.)


By: Hassoum Ceesay