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Kankurang Festival 2025 Confirmed!

My Magazine 2024/06
3 min
Mark your calendars and save the date! From January 24th to 26th, 2025, the 8th Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival is set to ignite the heart of The Gambia with an explosion of culture, tradition, and excitement. This is one of the most anticipated cultural festivals in the country and an extraordinary celebration brimming with vibrant culture, captivating performances, and indelible memories. This annual festival, held in Janjanbureh (in the Central River Region of The Gambia, 300km upstream from the Banjul capital), promises a singular experience offering a unique insight into the region's rich cultural heritage.

From dawn till dusk, the streets of Janjanbureh will come alive with the rhythmic beats of traditional drums, the colourful attire of masquerades and dancers, and the energetic dance moves. You can expect to witness awe-inspiring performances as masked dancers embody the spirit of the many masquerades, weaving through the crowds in a mesmerizing display of strength and grace.

The festival's highlights are masquerades such as kankurang, zimbas, kumpos, fairies, hunting devil, and other masks representing the culture of various ethnic groups of The Gambia.

Kankurang is a protective spirit in Mandinka society that serves spiritual and judicial functions. The Kankurang refers to a family of Mandinka masquerades covered from head to midcalf or head to toe with bark, leaves or a mixture of bark and leaves. The masks or customs conceal the wearer's identity and give him superhuman powers. During the festival, the Kankurang makes appearances, captivating audiences with its mystical presence and enigmatic dances.

The Zimba, originally from Mali, is a masquerade from the Wollof tribe among the Lébo caste. Performers behind masques are always men, as women are not allowed to be part of the sacred process of transformation. Their costumes are handmade from different materials, primarily artificial fur decorated with other colourful materials. The costume always includes a headpiece and a painted face.

The Kumpo is a traditional mask belonging to the Jola ethnic group. The Kumpo is believed to be a secret spirit art form and serves as a guardian to society, protecting it from the attacks of evil forces such as witchcraft. Many describe the kumpo as a whirlwind of palm fibre with an epicentre of a long stick used to rest its weight. It also performs at all social gatherings like weddings, christenings, and initiations. Its energetic dance reflects its esoteric knowledge and power.

The Fairy is the most flamboyant mask in The Gambia, belonging to the Aku ethnic group. The Fairy sometimes wears a pretty face mask, a beautiful, shiny, vibrant dress, matching gloves and a headdress.

The Fairy's beauty does not only lie in its costume but also in the music accompanying the performance. During Christmas, New Year and Easter celebrations, you can see fairies performing in Banjul or the Serekunda areas.

The Hunting Devil masquerade belongs to the Aku ethnic group and is present during celebrations. The Hunting Devil is normally costumed in recycled jute sacks embellished with cowries and wears a headdress made of horn or embalmed or carved heads of wild animals like lions, tigers, antelopes, bears, hyenas and more. It also carries a backpack decorated with calabash, cowries, snail shells, rare animal skins, palm fronds and nets.

As the sun sets on each day of festivities, prepare to be swept away by the enchanting sounds of live music and dance performances under the starlit sky. Whether tapping your feet to the rhythm of the djembe drums or swaying to the melodic tunes of local musicians, the Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival promises to leave you spellbound.

The Janjanbureh Kankurang Festival is more than just entertainment – it celebrates community, unity, and tradition. Locals and visitors come together to honour their cultural roots and pay homage to the ancestors who have shaped their identity.

If you are interested in a culture blast, prepare to be dazzled by the masking traditions, drumbeats, whistles, traditional dance steps and cultural displays of the Kankurang Festival 2025.

My Gambia annually organizes a three-day trip to Janjanbureh during the Kankurang Festival weekend. This includes activities en route to Janjanbureh to experience the authentic countryside, village life and unspoilt natural jewels of The Gambia.

The trip includes two beloved products: responsible community-based travel through The Ninki Nanka Trail and the cultural bonanza of the Kankurang Festival. Three days and two nights of feeling, freedom, joy and togetherness through celebrating mystical traditions!

Stay tuned for more information as the festival draws near. From event schedules to accommodation options, we'll share everything you need to know to make the most of your experience. Trust us – you won't want to miss this incredible event!


Book your spot now! Spaces are limited.



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