Brothers are from an extended family of gold and silversmiths. They learnt the craft from their grandfather, who was a silver and goldsmith. They started when they were still at school, and after completing high school, they ventured into the business and opened their shop. It is almost 30 years now since they started as silversmiths.
˝Before we are 15, we have already started making things out of silver and gold,˝ we learned from Mamat. They brought together their family members and opened their shop. Even the younger ones in the family are nurtured to gain skills at a young age.
Their workshop at Serekunda is where all the work is done, yet the products are sold at the Senegambia craft market. They make many accessories like bracelets, bangles, chains, rings etc., out of gold, silver, bronze or even copper, depending on the customer's wishes. They buy the raw materials from the dealers at the Serekunda market.
Mamat reveals Gambians love gold and silver jewellery. They believe wearing silver and gold is good luck and can bring fortune. Sometimes, Gambians would put Juju in rings or bangles made of gold and silver for protection and good fortune. Often, the family puts bangles on the newborn babies to wear for protection through infancy.
Mamat talks about some of the challenges they face in running the business. Raw materials are becoming expensive, and this has caused them to lose customers. Also, the pandemic has left its mark since there are still fewer visitors in The Gambia, which used to be one of the top customers at Senegambia Craft Market.
Njaga Njie is Mamat Ndure's brother and business partner. He works at the workshop in Serekunda with the team, which is formed mainly by their nephews.
We met him, making identical bangles for twins Adam and Awa. We joined in for the whole process and learned each step.
He began by measuring the silver rod to get the right amount of silver to make two bangles. Also, measurements must be made to get an idea of how much raw material has been lost during the melting process.
After measuring and recording the material, he put it in a small iron pot and added a brass chemical, making it easier to melt the silver. He put it on the fire to melt. The melting process took about 10 minutes.
Melted silver was then poured into the iron mould, which was previously coated with wax, to ensure that the silver did not stick to the mould. From there silver plate is put into water to cool down a little. From there, Njaga used a hammer to thin it out. When the silver cools down too much, it is tough to shape it with a hammer, so it has to be heated a few times again until it is shaped with the hammer. This process takes just under one hour. Afterwards, bangles are heated and put in acid to retrieve their original colour. From 46.3 grams of raw material, only 45.5 grams of silver is left.
Bangles were ready for fine shaping and designing with the saw and different types of files. The last step is cutting the name from the silver plate to add it to the wide part of the bangle. After the name is engraved with the saw, it is attached to the bangle by heating it up and pressing it to the final piece. By using sandpaper, bangles get a fine shape and a nice shine.
Do you want a unique piece of jewellery?
You can find Mamat's and Njaga's unique handmade jewellery at the Senegambia Craft Market at shop number 33. If you want to see and participate in the whole process yourself and leave with a unique bangle, book your day with a silversmith and we will arrange everything for you.