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The famous New Year’s hunting masking tradition in Banjul

My Magazine 2023/01
2 min
New Year’s hunting festival has now become a tradition in The Gambia. It is a day that most of the Gambians used to be eager about. It is a traditional masquerade festival in the capital city of The Gambia, Banjul. The festival is so prevalent in The Gambia that even kids usually talk about it when it's approaching.

The festival has been a competition in Banjul's different "hunting" societies. The societies competing are the EKUN BABA HUNTING SOCIETY and ODILLEH HUNTING SOCIETY, but in recent years GUN SHOT HUNTING SOCIETY has also joined the competition to make it more enticing. The festival typically happens on New Year’s Day, depending on which day it falls, except when it falls on a Sunday, like this year. The festival is then postponed till the following day, Monday, to respect the sabbath day. The festival always starts at noon, with every society showcasing their hunting with stunning decorations.

The one that comes out first, at noon, is called the big devil. It's usually decorated with horns of different animals, typically very long, thick, and curvy. So when the big devil is out, the parade around the streets of Banjul starts. People follow the masquerade performers singing and clapping with wooden decorated sticks for the "hunting "to dance. It applies to all the societies that are mentioned. Later, the "huntings" return to their respective society houses to prepare for another hunting at 2 p.m., when they normally present a different mask. It's decorated with a head of a wild animal, and these animal heads can be of a lion, tiger, hippo, rhino, liger etc. The same applies to the ones that come out at 6 p.m. and later in the evening when "Egereh" happens. It's the showcasing of different "huntings" from 8 p.m. to midnight. People come from different parts of the country to witness this festival. There are even people who come from abroad to see it. When "Egereh" is going on, the audiences roam around the different societies to see their "huntings". Some prefer standing at one spot, watching their favourite hunting society, and enjoying how the hunting dances and drummers make the drums sound with traditional hunting songs.

Enjoy glimpses of this year’s hunting festival in Banjul.

Did you miss the hunting but are eager to witness this wonderful tradition? Come with us to the Janjanbureh Festival 2023 and be part of the amazing cultural performance of huntings, kankurangs, zimbas and other masking traditions of the Gambian region.


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