The idea developed further in 2019 when in June 2019, we received a visit from Sir Dawda, then in a wheelchair, accompanied by his daughter Nema Udom along with his nurse and the security officer. A meeting that began a series of visits by him to the Fajara Club. On one occasion, Nema requested that she would like to get a “putting” mat so that he could also try and put a few balls at home. Pro JJ Jatta provided the mat with some golf balls, and I provided the Putter.
I had travelled to Europe in August and was given the sad news of his demise on 24th August. Having sent our condolences to the family, we decided to fast-track our plans for a memorial – and my correspondence with Nema Udom once again commenced. We, the Committee, met and agreed that we would rename the Golf course after him and suggested getting a statue or bust placed at the entrance of the Club. A search began for a sculptor, and my thoughts went to India. Several leads brought me to the realisation that it was not only expensive but would take time in India. After some lengthy online research, I found a company called You Fine Sculpture in the Hubei province of China – which boasted that they could make any Marble or Bronze sculpture.
A message from me was replied to immediately. I must say today that the prompt response from Venus Li and her persistence was probably one reason for this Bust dream being realised. Thank you, Venus. Once we had decided on the bust plans, in November 2019, we confided in Nema Udom our plans – and a quest for good photographs to select commenced. Venus had asked us for as many photographs of Sir Dawda from different angles to enable them to get a good 3-dimensional image of his. A picture of a young Sir Dawda in golfing attire, wearing a distinct golf cap, was zeroed in on from the numerous photographs provided by Nema Udom. (I later was made aware that it was Ebrima who provided Nema Udom with many of the photographs).
The process, Venus said, was they would first make a clay mould as an exact size replica of the final bust. We had options to choose either white marble, black marble or bronze. We settled on a black marble 3-foot-high shoulder & head bust. We asked for final quotes and thereafter made an advance request for the clay mould.
In December 2019, Venus shared a photograph of the clay mould – Made by master sculptor Jin; this was the most important part, as any changes in the clay mould would reflect on the final bust. The clay mould, to our untrained eyes, was quite good, in my opinion. I sent the picture to Nema, who also concurred that it was a particularly good impression of her father.
A go-ahead was given, and on 14th January 2020, Venus sent us a few pictures of an unpolished bust of Sir Dawda from several angles. Within a few days, we received a final picture and a message requesting final payment and shipping instructions. I was away in India – and the pandemic had already struck China, and lockdowns were gradually starting. There was no way we could airlift the statue as all airlines had stopped flying to China. Port shipments were stalled too – and we gave up thoughts of a May 2020 inauguration.
We got lost in our world of pandemic-related lockdowns and closures – I commenced looking for a means of shipping the bust by sea containers and enquired with business friends. With a stroke of luck, Mr Rajiv Sharma of Aryan Trading, Importers of construction material from China, promised me that as and when shipments from China resumed, he would endeavour to ship the bust to The Gambia. I sent his China office details to Venus – and within no time, she had established contact with them.
In September 2020, Venus confirmed that they had packed the bust for a sea voyage and shipped the bust in a crate to Guangzhou, to Aryan trading’s contact. Rajiv confirmed that the bust was received, and they had soon loaded it into a container.
The moment we heard the bust was underway, we had to start looking for the means to build a pedestal in the memorial area. Mr Sirtaj Singh Bedi of Shapoorji Pallonji, who were busy in the area with a NAWEC water project and who had come to the clubs help on several occasions for advice, immediately offered to build a pedestal suitable to take a President's bust. By October, they had completed erecting a beautiful pedestal to mount the bust. The Granite plaque on the pedestal was gifted by Mr Elliot Kwamla Manly.
In October, I received a call from Rajiv that the container had arrived – and he offered to have it delivered till the site. On 29th October 2020, the bust arrived in a crate in Rajiv's minivan – and he and some caddies helped unload the 400kg odd crate. The following day the Shapoorji team arrived with a crane and some engineers, who had a look at the bust and advised us that we would have to carefully hoist it onto the pedestal. Slings were arranged, and very slowly and carefully, the bust was mounted on the pedestal. Being right in the middle of the pandemic with the Club officially closed due to lockdown, we covered the bust from top to bottom, awaiting a suitable occasion – 16th May 2021, President Sir Dawda Jawara’s 97th Birth Anniversary seemed once again the ideal date, and thus we are here today with the inauguration of this memorial. The memorial area itself was landscaped by Anu Amrith, the social secretary of the Club (and is a qualified landscape architect too). The Memorial will be developed into a park and playground and will have a mini golf track, driving nets and park seats with a garden and picnic area.