A group of British and Brazilian artists and musicians is heading to Kartong on a cultural exchange – and promises to bring with them the spirit of carnival.
The team of 39 will join the organising committee of the Kartong Festival, an arts and cultural event that has run in the Gambian southern coastal village since 2004.
Amongst the overseas crew are visual artists, choreographers, costume makers, drummers, teachers and people skilled in fundraising and event production. Many head up successful arts and cultural organisations in the UK. Their aim is to share expertise and help the festival organisers maximise the potential of the event and its appeal to tourists.
And as well as working hard behind the scenes, the travellers have pledged to pull off an impressive carnival style lantern parade, involving over 150 people from the village as lantern makers, puppeteers, drummers and dancers.
In return, the Brits are hoping to learn more about Gambian and west African traditions including kankourang costume making, music and dance.
The squad is organised by Global Grooves, an international carnival arts organisation, based in the north of England, near Manchester.
Leon Patel, chief executive officer of the group, said: “Our work takes us all over the world, learning and sharing our knowledge and skills of international carnival customs. Carnivals can bring communities together, not just for one day or one weekend, but all year round. We would love to see carnival performance bloom at the Kartong Festival and for the carnival spirit to engage even more people and help the event increase its community relevance.
“The Festival has the potential to become the number one attraction for visitors to The Gambia and for it to serve as a vehicle for bringing money into local communities rather than the European businesses that dominate tourism.
“This is not a one off. We hope to build a lasting friendship and relationship with the Kartong Festival”.
Leon, an experienced percussionist, teacher and event organiser, first met the festival committee during a visit to the Gambia in 2016. Though the purpose of his trip was to help establish a bush taxi social enterprise in Manjai Kunda, once he met the event organisers, he vowed to return and join the festival team.
Modou Kuto Manneh, coordinator of the Kartong Festival Committee said: “We are looking forward to welcoming Global Grooves. This cultural exchange provides a great opportunity for everyone involved, from the youngest school children to the most respected musicians and performers.
“We have ambitious plans for future festivals and believe that sharing our culture, traditions and lifestyle can play a crucial role in bringing more tourism to the Gambia.”
Kartong Festival takes place in the grounds of St Martin’s Basic Cycle School in the centre of the village. There will also be a series of performances and workshops in local lodges within easy reach of Kartong and within the village itself.
Big name supporters of the annual event include Sabar drummer Modou Diouf and Sona Jobarteh, the first female kora virtuoso to come from a prestigious west African Griot family.
Kartong Festival takes place from 2nd to 4thFebruary 2018.