Here I sit with the men of Ballen, a Jola village along the south bank of the River Gambia near the Senegalese Casamance border. This is Ismaila Bojang’s home village and he took this photo! He was my favorite worker in Fajara and my interpreter on this prayer walking trip. See “The Miracle Leaf Story” for a report on that Prayer Walk. And on Gambia Missionary page find all the stories I have from 3 years in The Gambia
In every village there is a tree like this with benches where people gather to tell stories and take care of village business. Thus it is my symbol for Gambia Stories. It is called “The Bantaba” which is the Mandinka word used or understood by every tribe in The Gambia. Here is the first paragraph of an interesting definition of the Bantaba:
West African dance revolves around notion the “Circle of the Bantaba,” literally interpreted as “The Dancing Ground” – among the Mandinka of West Africa. The Bantaba is a place where community, affirmation, confirmation of self purpose is initiated – a spiritual circle around which the community revolves.
~Web Source of above quote
Slideshow of The Bantaba in The Gambia
And here is a more official definition of “Bantaba” from the official Gambia tourist website Access Gambia:
The name “Bantaba” is derived from the word for a large tree, which is called Bentennie in the Mandinka language and is a traditional meeting place for the men of the village. The origins of the word is from the Mandinka for tree which is “Bant” and “aba” means “where to meet” and so the 2 words combined says Bant-aba, the equivalent of a gazebo.