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Ebunjan Theatre - The Gift of Janet

My Magazine 2023/04
6 min
Ebunjan Theatre the first and only theatre in The Gambia. A unique African structure that provides space to train and nurture the creative talents of young Gambians.

In December 2011, Ebunjan Theatre officially opened as the first professional theatre in The Gambia with a dance-drama performance. It has since been hosting plays, anniversaries, dances and cultural shows. It is located at the Kanifing South, opposite the Football Association House. The theatre is a large dome-shaped structure with an auditorium and balcony. It also has dressing rooms, an art gallery, a roof terrace and a stage.

The theatre comes alive with different plays monthly. It touches on different issues in society and acting out a possible solution to educate and entertain people. The Ebunjan theatre is well known for its professionalism during events and the change it brings to the life of many with its educative plays.

The brain behind this majestic centre of performing art is an influential woman who established the theatre in 2011. Janet Badjan-Young. She was born in 1937. She is a Gambian playwright, director, and administrator and one of the country’s most prolific playwrights. Mrs Janet Badjan Young holds a Diploma in Speech and Drama from The Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama.

She spent the greater part of her life outside The Gambia: in Sierra Leone, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Caribbean. Janet had worked for the United Nations Information Centre in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, before becoming Director of UNIC in Lagos, Nigeria.

The theatre’s unique name is an abbreviation of hers and her husband’s name. Her husband was called (Ebun), which means gift, and Jan presents the first three letters of her name. Therefore, Ebunjan means the Gift of Janet.

˝This is my gift to the Gambian people.˝

The theatre presents plays in English and the local language of The Gambia to suit all people attending the theatre.

Behind a successful institution lies greater hurdles. Mrs Young express her deep distress in the tourism sector, which does not let visitors attend the theatre as part of their trip’s adventures. The theatre is always ready to hold special events for tourist ready to visit it if given a chance to. She also expresses her deep sadness on the challenges of funding and lack of assistance for the theatre, which never made a profit since its inception.

˝I am a bit saddened that I don't get any subsidy for the theatre˝.

She also laments the interest of the youths on who time and energy is spent but would change their path at the end of the day and leave.

Mrs Janet believes that the best way to have good leaders is to introduce theatre to schools. It has become her new target to train school children in theatre, especially drama. In this regard, the play The Lion and the Jewel, which is in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) syllabus, is showing in the theatre in June. This gives the students the chance to watch the live play and relate to it before sitting to their exams.

In conclusion, she states her wish to see the arts being developed globally, especially in countries like The Gambia. She went on to say that The Gambia should find its ways and its beauty because there is nothing more beautiful than the language and the culture.

˝We should appreciate what we have and share it with the world because the world shares with us as well."

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