May 27, 2008, 6:26 AM
Background: Metta’s Club
‘’George Gomez did an excellent work in his recent article on the history of beauty contests in the Gambia. I hereby add my own reflections, concentrating on the activities of Metta’s club in beauty pageants. George and Batch John were always helpful when our Gambian Misses went to the UK for the Miss World.
Metta’s started around 1947 when most of the founders formed a club called Sunshine club based at Dodou Talls at Hill street. We used to have annual get together, organise school in-house parties, gardening, and dances. When we started working, we thought we should re-organise and be more involved in social activities in Bathurst. Then we decided to re name the youth club into Metta’s club; after the presumed jinn of Bathurst, as we got it from our ancestors. This coincided with self government in 1962. In fact, we decided to do this to celebrate the Gambia’s 1965 independence and organised the Miss Independence on the first Saturday after Independence in 1965 at the Tennis Lawn, where Galp oil station is now in Banjul and Miss Elizabeth Thomas was crowned Miss Independence, she was former Speaker of the National Assembly.
The original founders; Alhaji Dodou Taal, former Ambassador; Alhaji Sheikh Jeng, former Chief of Protocol; Alhaji SOB Njie, first Gambian male nurse; Abdoulie Jobe ;Alhaji Abdoulie Mbye; Late Habib Loum (Mbums); Late Alhaji Baboucarr AS John; Late Dodou M Kah; Late Alhaji IBK Sinyan (John); Alhaji Bakary jabang, former Police Commissioner; OC B Jallow retired diplomat ; late Alhaji Sheikh M Jagne, retired telecoms officer; Alhaji Sheikh Joof, retired teacher; Late Alhaji Bai Ndure; AK Njie, Alhaji Ma Ebou Njie. Later on they were also joined by MOS Ndure, MA Ceesay, Adama Jagne, retired diplomat; Alhaji Badou Mbenga, Badou Njie, Sogi Sock, Alhaji Lamin Bah, Badou Njie, Omar Gaye Manneh and Alhaji Ebou Taal, former diplomat. Also, our wives were also members such as late Marie Kah, Sainabou Faal-Taal, Sainabou Othman, late Selman Sambou, Mrs Adama Njie Jeng; Ida Ndure, late Marion Morrison-Marenah and Fatou Kebba Njie-Jobe and isatou Jallow Ndure and Fatoumatta Jah, Lala Cleansing and others. What we have had in common was that we lived in the Half Die-Dingareh area and attended Muhhamedan or St Mary’s or Boys High School.
Activities of Metta’s
Among our first activities as a club in the 1950s was the organisation of football challenges, bat lawn tennis on the Bathurst street pavements or the tennis lawn and later on some of us turned into great footballers such as Mamadi Sowe, Ebou Taal; Dodou Taal and Seringe secka were tennis players. We also organised social activities like eating competition and house parties to enliven Bathurst.
In 1964, as the Gambia was preparing for nationhood, we thought we should organise something more meaningful for national development. First, we decided to re-name the club so as to make more nationalistic and was debated and the name Metta Youth Circle. This was changed later to Metta Youth Club and much later, to Metta Club as we were no longer youths. After the re-naming to Metta Youth Circle, first president Alhaji Dodou Taal; OC Jallow as general secretary and AM Seringe Secka as Assistant secretary.
As independence approached, we thought we should contribute our quota in the festivities and we decided on organising a beauty contest. There used to be beauty contest in social clubs in Bathurst and best dressed lady but we organised the first national beauty contest in the country. First, we organised divisional contests in the provinces where we selected the Miss for that division; our age limits regulation was 17-27 years, and must be literate in English. Even married women were qualified to contest as long as she was within the age range. Like Ndey Jagne had just gotten married and won the title. In February 1965, we organised Miss independence, (Miss Elizabth Yamidi Robert Renner)and then in November 1965 we organised Miss Gambia (Miss Ndey Jagne). Before the finals for Miss Gambia we had organised Miss Bathurst, Miss URD, Miss MID, Miss LRD, Miss Bakau, Miss Brikama and these winners were brought over to Bathurst for the finals. We hosted them here in Bathurst for five days at ADONIS or Atlantic hotel to prepare them for the finals and organised a busy programme for the such as shopping, sightseeing etc. We also used to have a Miss Parade around Banjul before the contest night. Miss late Anna Carayol was first runner up, Miss late Ramou Sillah was second runner up in Miss Gambia, 1965. Metta appointed reps in the divisions with the help of the Commissioners to help in organising these contests.
After the Miss independence, the Gambia was invited to participate in the Miss World for the first time as in independent country. As we had just organised the Miss Independence, Government through the social welfare department asked us at Metta’s club to prepare a Gambian girl to represent our new country to Miss World 1965 in London. Government was approached by Mecca promotions Inc, who held the franchise for Miss World in London.
When Ndey Jagne won Miss Gambia in November 1965, she became our representative to Miss World. Using the proceeds from the contests, we bought her air ticket, pocket money and ward robe. CFAO, Bata, British Caledonian also sponsored some of her preparations for the Miss World in London. Ndey Jagne did The Gambia proud by falling in the first 16 most beautiful girls in the world. This was good publicity for our new nation.
In 1966, we organised second Miss Gambia under the same mode of divisional contests culminating in the national finals. Miss Bakau late Oumie Barry won Miss Gambia 1966, first runner up was Miss Jenny Jack. She won Miss Gambia in 1967. We gave her a small Kora as present from her country. In 1969 Miss Mary Carayol, now Mrs Ngum, won. Miss Princess Davies was the last Miss Metta’s crowned in 1970.
I should add that the divisional preliminaries were always interesting. For example, at Kuntaur we held the Miss contest at a Banataba with the drums and Kankurang in earnest.
The logistics for the Miss contest were: reputable judges known only by three members of the executive of Metta; the judges were briefed at our office at Fitzgerald street. Also, we used to have jazz bands such as Super Eagles to supply the music for the night, and in the 1965 contest we charged ladies for the dance and this was the first time in the Gambia for ladies to pay to enter dance programmes. Ladies used to be invited to dances.Prime Minister Jawara was our willing chief patron and supporter and he never missed any of our beauty pageants. Our contests were promoted by brochures, banners and newspaper ads.
Our pageant activities helped to boost the Gambia’s name and helped in tourism promotion as this was just at the time that Bertil Harding discovered the potentials of Gambian tourism. We also promoted women by helping to build confidence in them. As George rightly said, as our members took up missions abroad such as diplomatic duties, Metta’s ceased to exist.
Our funds were also used to sponsor children in school between 1965-1969, among them Kebba Ndure, Fakebba Darboe, a successful contractor, Cherno Joof, former civil servant and late Lawyer Harding. We also donated to the hospital and other needy institutions. We still have funds at the bank, fifty years after the club was formed’’.