Janjangbureh – Gambia’s Historical Island

Janjangbureh Island

One of the most historical Islands that you cannot avoid as a Gambian or visitor to The Gambia is no other Island than the popular Janjangbureh. It is an Island that tourists can hardly miss if they really want to claim knowledge of Gambian history and their stay in the country.

This is because Janjangbureh is an Island of history and event where every minute spent is a moving and memorable one as the knowledge and what will be seen will last in ones life time. As the saying goes ‘no event no history,’ Janjangbureh is an Island of event. Hence the annual Janjangbureh festival is around the corner it deems fit to look again what made the island to be what it is today and what has transformed to Janjangbureh. Let have a tip of an ice of the past events and culture of Janjangburians to refresh our memory before the stage of their forthcoming festival.

You can take everything away from Janjangbureh, but not its characteristic excess in sand and bar of ironstone, running from the bank across the river, known as Buruko Rocks. Its culture and tradition form the historical value of the Island, which made it a household name in the Gambia and beyond. It is an Island evolving from a mere sandbank made out of alluvial river deposits. This Island developed into a wooded environment inhabited by wild creatures and numerous species of birds and reptiles. Before it assumed its present names, early European and Luso, African traders of 16thand 17th centuries, originally called it Leman Island.

According to History of Settlement, a structure found in the famous Freedom Tree Monument, a Triangle Park in the island located close to the slave house and slave market, “on April 14, 1823, the Island was ceded in a treaty signed by Major Grant and the King of Kataba, in exchange for an annual payment. On the same day, Grant took formal possession of the Island and built a fort. On April 30 same year, two cannons were mounted on the bastions, the British flag hoisted and the royal salute was fired. The settlement was named after King George IV (1820-1830) and the Island was renamed after Sir Charles Maccarthy, Governnor of British West African Possession (1814-1824).”

This Island, a community of over 3000 people, occupies about 1/6 of the 43.2km square land area popularly called Maccarthy, Georegetown, or Janjangbureh, its latest name. The various names appeal to specific groups of people that visit the Island.Among students of Armitage Senior Secondary School, Georgetown seem to be more favorable, while most of the indigenes (youths) call it Maccarthy and the old ones and the rest of the country called it by its latest name: Janjangbureh. The Leman name has virtually lost it place in this generation, except for historical references.

Janjangbureh is one of the oldest towns of the Gambia As the administrative centre of the Central River Region; it is the second oldest city of colonial era. Wherever you are in The Gambia one of the three names: Maccarthy, Georgetown or Janjangbureh might be mentioned, during discussions in houses, restaurants, commercial vehicles, on the streets, in market places, and more so in classrooms, where it is often very popular among the students who see it as one of the first choice for excursion.

The Island, 283km by sea and 304 km by land, from Banjul, is among other provinces in the Gambia, where its environment is said to be among the cleanest if not the cleanest. Its streets boast of perfect tranquility, boosted with the occasional relieving sounds of music emanating from shops, and the ubiquitous makeshift canteens that line it.

According to an elderly man in the island, who spoke to Tourisphere, this Island was once a commercial centre. But, he said, because of migration, many of the indigenes had migrated to the urban areas, some venturing further out of the shores of The Gambia, in search of greener pastures. But despite this mass migration, Janjangbureh still serve as a link to the surrounding villages and communities on its mainland north, south and west.

In addition, another thing that makes this island a perfect place and continue to attract thousands of tourist every year, is it peaceful nature, with the conspicuous absence of criminal activities, compared to the mainly urban cities. Janjangbureh can also boast of one of the most popular learning institutions in the country today. Armitage Senior Secondary School; the most recognized prison yard; the famous freedom tree – although the original Freedom Tree was said to have been removed, the wooden house among other.

On September 21, 2002, the Janjangbureh Community held a ceremony marking the planting of a new tree at the site to celebrate “a rebirth of the town of the freedom.” This is the site that holds the Freedom Tree. It also accommodates the remains of the slave market, itsstone-built warehouses and the underground slave house, which are still visible today, solid reminders of hard days gone by.