In January 2018, after a break of decades, the people of Janjanbureh, a town in the Central River Region of the Gambia, staged the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival. The Kankurang, a masquerade tradition associated with the rites of passage or initiation into "manhood" is practiced by Mandinka communities in The Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. This initiation is a way of graduating the youth to full membership of their communities by learning the importance of community living.
The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), funded by the EU through the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF), supported the festival organising committee in collaboration with the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC), the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB) and the Association of Small Scale Enterprises in Tourism (ASSET).
The revival of the Kankurang festival is part of efforts to preserve cultural heritage and boost tourism in Janjanbureh, thereby creating new economic opportunities for young Gambians in Janjanbureh and surrounding villages. The 2018 edition was a success, and Gambian youth leveraged on the revenue generating opportunities in terms of hospitality, sale of souvenirs and tour guiding services for the many tourists that were there. While the last festival that attracted local and international visitors was held in the 1980s, the 2018 edition had visitors from over 10 countries, such as Senegal, Mali, Finland, Norway, USA, among others. It is expected that the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival will now be an annual event as part of a larger initiative to empower the youth of the Central River Region of the Gambia.
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