Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MENACE OF RAPE: Can’t be buried under carpet

Rape is s very sensitive issue, but a global phenomenon. In some countries they are more open about this act considered a menace to society but in other countries they are not that much open about it. However, rape is a social vice that cannot be buried under the carpet, as Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu, a Gambian-German filmmaker told Modou S. Joof of The North Bank Evening Standard in an interview.   

Prince Sankanu speaks to Modou S. Joof, publisher of The North Bank Evening Standard, on his film project/photo/MENjie
Interview with Prince Bubacarr Aminata Sankanu
How does the movie “The Woman In A Black Jacket” intends to address the menace of rape?
The movie is about the menace of rape which is a very sensitive topic in society. Film is a very powerful medium and as filmmakers our role is to place the mirror before society. That’s what a film is all about, it reflects society.
Around the world rape is a major issue and talking about it is about placing the mirror before society to look at this issue. It cannot be buried under the carpet.
It is the best we can do in a situation where reading culture is dying either due to illiteracy or people are becoming lazy to write. You can write a book about rape and people will not read it but you can make a movie and the way you dramatized it the message will trickle-down to even the most illiterate person and that’s why I say that the audiovisual medium as a way of transmitting the message is the ideal one.
Rape is a global phenomenon. In all countries in the world, rape is a problem. It depends on how you handle it. In some countries they are more open about it and in other countries they are not.
But anybody who watches the movie whether the person is a European, African or Arab, you will be able to relate to it because it is a universal topic. This means that it is a movie that once it is done in the Gambia, it is going to market the Gambia because it is a movie that will be accepted worldwide, and rape is an issue that affects all human races beyond culture and language.
One cannot say rape is only done by Africans; it is not done by Europeans or Arabs. It is done by everybody, so that’s why I hope it will automatically trickle-down without much problem.
How will local actors and actresses be involved to benefit from your film project?
That is what brought me here. Like I said, it is a universal subject that could be set anywhere. I could set it in Nigeria, Ghana or even Germany because it is a universal theme.
I decided to choose Gambia because my Gambian gene became alive, the patriotic Gambian in me became alive so I decided to do something because I don’t like the way the Gambian film industry is going.
Our young talents are being exploited by people coming with funny and inflated budgets. I said we have to start something modest and am coming here to give young talents a chance and that’s why I am having a meeting at the Alliance Franco, which is my second meeting with young talents to have first of all an informal session to brief them about the project (and) to prepare them.
Then in January (2013), we’ll have an audition with local talents. It is going to be 99% Gambian, only when the skill and equipments that are required for a professional movie are absent, then I can bring in one or two people from Germany and one person who is a Nigerian pan-African but based in Europe, who is a part of my production company - as part of my staff. Otherwise it is going to be fully a Gambian project.
And that is why after the first meeting with the talents I nominated a young Gambian by the name Momodou Lamin Touray to be the Director while I serve as the Executive Producer and the lead male actor.
I have brieft all the actors and actresses who want to come to the audition on what they should consider: the dress code, the style and other things. In January we will do the audition proper and those are lucky to be in the final list will be given the scripts to start rehearsing, and then we will do the principal photography (shooting) in March 2013.    
L: Momodou Lamin Touray, Sankanu-appointed Film Director with Mamadou Edrisa Njie/Photo/MSJoof
You know a movie cannot be produced overnight. How long will it take for the movie to hit the market?
It depends, if we are satisfied with the pictures. Initially I wanted it to be premiered during the next International Women’s Day on 8th March, 2013, we won’t miss that one. The next ideal date would have been July – to coincide with African Women’s Day, if possible.
But there is still time when you know that one can release it and our next festival (in Germany) is 2014 so there is time, depending on the material we have and the qualities we have. If the quality is good we will edit it – that could take one month.
It will take at least six months before the final cut of the movie is out and then we’ll fix a date when it should come into the theater and the festivals and then all those who are involved will know about it.
Making a standard film can be very expensive, how much will it cost, financially?
It is a modest one. I decided to come modestly - we are going to shoot it in Gambia – I decided to peg the budget at €51, 000 Euros, which is a low entry level. If I want to shoot it in Germany it will be a different budget and if I want to do something big it would have been a different thing.
This is basically what I set in as a pilot and see if I am satisfied then during the next movie (on female genital mutilation, FGM) then one can upgrade the budget, but this is the maximum limit I put myself.
It also a way of putting pressure on the talents. If people know that the money in the movie is not much, it is a way of filtering them because those who are passionate will stay in the project and those who are only interested in the movie will move out.
It is a way of controlling the people and filtering them. They will say “ah! €51, 000 is the budget” and after the breakdown they’ll have to tell me their fees and they can say “oh! the fee is too small for me”, whatever the case maybe so you are already disqualified.
The person who stays up to the end I will know that this person is passionate because I value things that money cannot buy. So if the person stays up to the end of the project we are able to have a world standard movie within this budget.
Then next time there is always possibility of applying for funding from Germany for the distribution, but unfortunately, Gambia does not have a bilateral Film Cooperation Agreement with Germany. So it is not easy to get money from German authorities to fund a movie here just like that.
For the distribution funding, that one we have the facility because I have my production company in Germany (the Royal Sankanura Principality Studious). I can use it to apply for funding for the distribution.
For this one (The Woman In A Black Jacket), it is a mix (funding), part of it will be my own fund and part is open. That is why we make arrangements for brand placement, which is to market the Gambia. So Gambian brands that are serious and are ready to use the movie to market their products and service to the global market can come.    
It is not a commercial movie, am not enriching myself because am not going to make money from this movie. It is because it is a social project; it is a social issue of rape. Because the movie has a universal theme, it is a chance for those who use the movie to place their brands. I will give space to only a maximum of seven (7) Gambian brands and commercial managers to come first will get the slots.
I hope before my departure those who are interested will be and then we will see. For the production of the movie, am not worried because I always get German state funding. The issue is whether one can get German and Gambian private sector involvement to cover the funding gap. If not, once the production is about to start we will know how to activate plan B.
The idea is to involve the private sector so that it can be collaborative work, in which the public and the private sector is involved and Gambian brands are represented and it can be marketed as a true Gambian movie.
You met officials of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the National Council for Arts and Culture to discuss with them about your film project. What kind of support do you want from?
I don’t know. The only thing I told them is that they are ready to support the project within their mandate. Whatever support they give me, I told them they will be credited as required by international standards. So whatever support they can give the movie they are ready to concretize it and specify.
I just wrote them an official letter introducing my project to them and I am grateful that the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTC) meet me and has assured me of his ministry’s full support. So the level and nature of support is left for them to specify. The same applies to the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC). I sent them the project brief.
I cannot come and say that I want you to do this. I just say this is what I have and this is what I have in mind and you see how you can come on board. The private sector can also tell me how they want to come on board with their brands, and then we’ll concretize and finalize the issue.
You said the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Tourism did admit that things are at a slow pace in Gambia. Could this have a chilling effect on your project?
Well, I have been in touch behind the scenes for almost a year now. You know when these people (Nollywood’s Rita Edochie and Jim Iyke) were coming with their budgets, exploiting the country and going, I was very angry.
Then I took the initiative of contacting the authorities, that is, the MOTC and the NCAC and also the Office of the President. I submitted a project proposal on how to build a film industry. I propose a name for the project, I propose festival and also have a legacy project which is a film school, and they’ve been there for almost a year now.
I have been following up behind the scene, but within that one year, what I have been able to achieve in Germany I could not here (in Gambia). Within one year, I had a festival that I organised (in Germany) which was successful. I have acted in various TV series, so career wise it has been going fine.
But within that one year when it comes to Gambia nothing has moved. So that has shown the time difference. It is now that am coming and this fear has been with me all along, the fear is still there – things will move slow but if I am able to achieve at least 5% of what I plan to achieve during this trip that will be a big achievement. I have low expectations because I understand things are slow, but I am optimistic after meeting with the authorities and am sure they are determined and serious because they know that I have suspended a lot of activities.
I was to shoot a film on 12 November which they would have paid me but I chose to come here which means I have lost an income. Every day that I spend here I am losing something but it is for my country. It is worth the sacrifice and I am glad that the authorities consider my proposal and I hope before my departure you will hear something positive that can move the project on.
Young Gambian actors and actresses/photo/MSJoof
You are currently on a location survey for your film. Have you identified yet a perfect setting?
I need 32 locations; I went to Nusrat (Senior Secondary School) which will be used for one of the campus scenes. FJC (Fatoumatta Jahumpa Ceesay) took me out for a dinner, we found some beautiful restaurants, and also she recommends one hotel which I hope I will be able to visit and then I’ll see from there.
Otherwise there are some people I nominated for the Crew who promised to also do the location survey because I have already sent them the list of locations that are needed – so I will do some myself  and when I come back in January we will finalize it.
Since I came here, what I have seen are good locations, the question is access, whether the people in charge of these places will allow us to use them at the end of the day – that is the biggest challenge. Instead of 32 locations, we will have a 100 or 150 locations that could be on a standby in case of emergency.
In your writings you noted your intention to work with the government-established Standing Committee on Beauty Pageants and Movie Productions to develop the film industry in Gambia. How do you intend to do this? 
From the first day I heard of the Committee, the first thing I did was to write an article to thank the President of the Republic (Yahya Jammeh) and the Minister of Tourism and Culture (Fatou Mass Jobe) for the foresight of having this project.
It is something that was long overdue, and I did not waste my time as I started doing something – I send them a Draft for a Film Policy Framework for them to use as a working document. I have been in touch with the former Chairman of the Committee Ebrima Sanyang who passed away (diseased).
That is why whenever I see other people coming in with projects from outside I try to block them – like I wrote an article against Rita Edochie (Nigerian actress) not because I hate her but because what she was doing is not in the interest of the country - the same thing with Jim Iyke (Nigerian/Nollywood actor).
So am glad that when I spoke to the authorities, the NCAC, they’ve also acted and blocked that one (Iyke’s) so that the Gambian talents can grow. It has nothing to do with unfair competition – even in world trade agreements you have the right to give the domestic industry the chance to grow. 
You cannot build a film industry overnight, with all the noise that is coming from outside. You need time, passion and investment. So am ready to work with the Committee up to the end.

Interview with Karamo, The Art Semester

Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) The North Bank Evening Standard interviews Mr. Karamo Sama, a renowned Gambian Artist, who is the Proprietor of Karamo Arts and Arts Semester. In this interview, he talks about his life in the world of arts and his social background. Read on…

TNBES: Can you tell our readers who you are and a brief account of your life as an artist?

Karamo: My name is Karamo Sama; I was born in Misirah, Upper River Region and brought up in Bansang. I did my Primary and Junior Secondary School in Bansang. After completing my education, I joined the medical fraternity, working as a medical practitioner at the Bansang Hospital from 1980 to1984.
In 1984 I left the Bansang hospital and traveled to Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Brussels, and Spain respectively, teaching and practicing Arts. In Nigeria I open an Arts Workshop where I taught many Nigerians on art work.
However, training Nigerian youths turned to be a problem for me because when a large number of the trainees where able to do the work, they started opening their own workshops near mine and ‘rivalry started showing its
ugly head.’ I had to leave because the place was not safe for me anymore.
From Nigeria I leave for Libya, where I spent one and half year, but also face a similar problem, which force me go to Mongolia. At that time, foreigners in Libya where not given the chance to show up and if you are
caught you become a victim of deportation. This was the reason why I fly to
Mongolia to safeguard my job and dignity, because for me, deport would have
been the worst thing to happen to me, I would not have had the time to
accomplish my mission.
In Mongolia, I had that the situation in Libya was ok and I went back to Libya doing building painting. When I feel that I am ok in arts training I came back to Nigeria, then to The Gambia.
I arrived in The Gambia in middle of 1996 and opened a workshop, where I continue to work as an artist till date.

TNBES: How did you come to fall in love with arts?

Karamo: Well to be precise, I love arts since my primary level of education. When I was a child I used to mould clay into different items and when ever I present them to people they become happy and
give me support to keep up the momentum. From there, I developed that sense of creativity till date. “I am most grateful to God the Almighty.” The aim of my traveling was to learn arts only and become specialize in it. To be frank with you I don’t have any other job that I love more than arts.

TNBES: What are the kinds of arts you specialize on?

Karamo: I specialize on screen printing, neon signs, stamps, sign boards, school badges, T-shirt printing and graphics. Among all these, the most important one is graphic design. We design valuable and wonderful products at reasonable prices. In my workshop I believed in quality and not quantity because that is what I was trained.

TNBES: what inspired or motivated you to become an artist?

Karamo: I got my inspirations from my teacher and well wishers who have always took it as a responsibility upon themselves to see me excel this field. Actually I cannot tell you who exactly I looked upon that inspired me. However, I used to have one teacher called Mrs. Williams who have always taken it as a challenge upon herself to see me at the top of the success lather.
“It has been my number one priority to become an artist and this has contributed a lot towards my success.”

TNBES: Are you solely earning you living through arts?

Karamo: yes, in fact I started earning my living through arts since when I was young. In my school days I used to make practical assignments for my fellow students, some teachers even assign me to do some artistic works which I was paid for.
As of now, my life depends largely on arts, because it’s through arts that I was able to buy a compound, a vehicle and raising my family through the proceeds of my art work. “Then you can see my whole life is arts, I cannot live without arts.”

TNBES: what are some of the difficulties or challenges that you have faced or you are facing as far as the art work is concern?

Karamo: The challenges that I used face were discouragements from some of my colleagues, village members etc, that art is not a worthy field but I just see them as enemies of arts and what I always yearned for was my success.
The most tedious work we the artist face is getting jobs from people. “Every worker who leaves his/her compound to go to work, you expect the person to do something when he/she reached his/her work place. But due to lack of work, we sometimes sat for weeks without working.” This problem is not affecting the artist only but it touches all other works of life.

TNBES: What is your massage to Gambian youths who are looking forward to becoming artist in future since you are a role model in Gambian art fraternity?

Karamo: The only massage I have for Gambians is that let them not rely on anybody, let them get up and work because working is the only thing that can make you become somebody. For future artist, what I have for them is that they should exercise great patience because arts work is not easy, they should also try to finish their trainings in order to become professionals.
If they Have respect for their teachers, parents, themselves and the entire
country, they will succeed.

TNBES: Thanks for your time.

Karamo: It is always a pleasure; my doors are always open to everybody.  

Dr. Lenrie Peters Speaks Out - reproduced

In 2008, the late Peters who witnessed colonialism, told me "it was a setback".
His hopes and expectations after Independence were "democracy and an open government striving for the good of the people" - never come to reality during the 1st and 2nd Republic. (Photo Credit: Gamwriters)

Gambian playwright, novelist and surgeon, Dr. Lenrie Peters died at age 76 in Dakar, Senegal on May 27, 2009 after a brief illness.

He was born in 1932 in Banjul, Hagan Street in a house where Gamstar Insurance is now situated.

He had his early education at Boys High School, Dobson Street Banjul.

He studied medicine, higher science and economics at Prince of Wales School in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he graduated with certificates and returned to The Gambia briefly, before moving to Cambridge, England - where he studied Latin at Cambridge Technical College.

He ventured into music, singing while still concentrating on his studies (Latin) in 1952.

In 1953, he went to the Trinity College, the largest college in Cambridge where he studied science for three years. He went to the University College Hospital to study surgery, after which he went back to Trinity College for his degree programme.

He qualified as a surgeon in 1959, while still writing, singing and broadcasting for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a freelancer from 1956 to 1969.

Peters is an accomplish poet, playwright and novelist. His novel is called “The Second Round” 1964. His published poems are “Collected Poems” 1964, “Satellites” 1967, and “Kachikali” 1971.

His poetry, robust and sophisticated, is full of African way of life, generally. He has also served as Chairman of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) – the first Gambian to do so.

In August 2008, the late Dr. Peters granted an interview to The Voice Newspaper’s Modou S. Joof. In what has since become his last interview with a journalist, Peters spoke on a variety of issues ranging from literature to politics. 

Relax and read on... 

The Voice: What was the message that you were trying to put to the people in your novel “The Second Round”?

Dr. Peters:  I remember what Africa was like when I left The Gambia to study in England. I tried to share my experience with retrospect describing the change in the African society from colonialism to independence. Some women said the novel is feminist but there was nothing like feminism in The Gambia at that time.

The Voice: Apart from your novel and poems, what other literary work do you have?

Dr. Peters: I have a selection of poems and some of it has been published in Nigeria before the Heinemann was published.

The Voice: Does any of your poems portray an index of your profession?

Dr. Peters: I don’t think it has an index of my profession. When you write, certainly your profession comes into it and it did in my part as a doctor.

The Voice: In the second stanza of your poem (We Have Come Home) you said: “But it is not time to lay wreaths for yesterday’s crime”. What do you mean?

Dr. Peters: After a funeral people lay wreaths, but the crime against Africans were not severe, so we should not lay wreaths because we have overcome these problems.

The Voice: What is the central message of the poem?

Dr. Peters: Each of us (the students) have different experiences in Europe but we should come back home to develop Africa and forget about those hostilities.

The Voice:  “We Have Come Home” was part of the WAEC syllabus 2001-2004. How did you feel for the well recognition of your work by the West African Examination Council, WAEC?

Dr. Peters: It was a good thing for African students and they came to know that they had an African writer from The Gambia. Other poems and parts of the novel have been used before.

The Voice: Most of your literary work is centred on African way of life, why?

Dr. Peters: Because I am an African and I have lived most of my life in Africa. It also helps the outside world to know about African culture and development.

The Voice: You have not been writing for some time, does that mean you quit?

Dr. Peters: One does not write like the way you use to do when you were much younger. When writing a book of poems you need to write 50 to 60 poems but that does not mean that one does not have 20 poems.

The Voice: You and Wole Soyinka established the African Writers Series, what was it for?

Dr. Peters: We established the African Writers Series with Heinemann for publishing African literature. Many African writers have their work published by the African Writers Series.

The Voice: Have you won a Nobel Prize for Literature?

Dr. Peters: No.

The Voice:  Gambians are said to be lazy readers, how successful is your literary work in the market?

Dr. Peters: There is no way of measuring that in The Gambia. Gambians are lazy readers but with the University, it will help them.

The Voice: How do you see Gambian literature?

Dr. Peters: It is developing and we have good writers, but young Gambian writers suffer from lack of libraries to read and do their research.

The Voice: You were a broadcaster, which media institution were you broadcasting for?

Dr. Peters: I was broadcasting for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a freelancer between 1956 and 1969.

The Voice: You were also a singer, what type of music were you playing?

Dr. Peters: I was an opera singer. I was playing classical music.

The Voice: You are a prominent figure, why do you receive less media attention?

Dr. Peters: Because I keep a low profile.

The Voice: What qualification did you get from Trinity College?

Dr. Peters: I got BSC in general science and MA degree.

The Voice: How long did it take to become a qualified surgeon?

Dr. Peters: It wasn’t organised in our time, so it took me more than the number of years required at present.

The Voice: How was life in Sierra Leone compared to that of England during days of studies abroad?

Dr. Peters: Life in Sierra Leone was too much like in The Gambia, it was during colonialism. Sierra Leone had a university and that was all the difference whilst England is a modern nation with all the development and facilities.

The Voice: What was it like to be the first Gambian to serve as Chairman of WAEC?

Dr. Peters: It was a great experience. It was wonderful, and I hope it was for WAEC too.

The Voice: What is your post at the West Field Clinic? 

Dr. Peters: I am the Chief Executive and Chairman of the clinic.
The Voice: Who owns the clinic?

Dr. Peters: A company of shareholders, West Field Clinic Company owns it. Dr. Parlmer started it in 1969.

The Voice: Does your time at the clinic impede your literary activities?

Dr. Peters: No, they complement each other.

The Voice: How difficult is it to deal with patients?

Dr. Peters: With experience, it is not difficult to deal with patients. Generally, they are grateful to what we are doing for them.

The Voice: Why do you devout most of your time to surgery instead of writing?

Dr. Peters: Surgery is my profession and writing is a vocation. If people need surgery you cannot delay it.

The Voice: How do you see the current situation of the country’s economy?

Dr. Peters: I think that the economy seems to be in a state of buoyancy but we are not sure what is sustaining it.  Big houses everywhere, you don’t know where the money is coming from. A lot of the youths are unemployed and it is not enough to tell the young to go back to the farm, you should give them incentives. I have been to the farm for 25 years, but it is not easy.

The Voice: Is it worthy for the youths to migrate illegally?

Dr. Peters: It is not worthy for the youths to go to Europe illegally, that is why they should be given incentives to enable them work in the country. They face a lot of hardship in finding jobs and this prompts them to go to Europe in perilous journeys.

The Voice: You witnessed the colonial era, was it really a setback for the country?

Dr. Peters: It was a setback, just two high schools and one hospital.

The Voice: What were your hopes and expectations after independence?  

Dr. Peters: My hopes and expectations were democracy and an open government striving for the good of the people.

The Voice: Were these hopes and expectations of yours fulfilled?

Dr. Peters: They were not fulfilled at all.

The Voice: As a former broadcaster, what do you think of Government-media relations?

Dr. Peters: It is not as good as it should be. The media is here to help propagate good ideas for the Government. It is important for both to work hand-in-hand.

The Voice: What do you think of the country’s human rights record?

Dr. Peters: Needs much to be desired.

The Voice: In 1995, you were the Chairman of the National Consultative Committee (NCC). What was the role of this committee?

Dr. Peters: This was to determine whether the military junta is to stay for two or four years. 

The Voice:  What were the achievements of the committee?

Dr. Peters: The people decided that the junta should rule for two years and after that they should remove their uniforms and become civilians.

The Voice: It’s 14-years of the AFPRC/APRC Government, what do you think of the political situation of the country?

Dr. Peters: It is still maturing. People think that it is easy to run a country but it is not easy running a country especially if you come from the barracks. I think you can give them some benefit of the doubt.

The Voice: What do you think are the reasons that stop women from contesting for the presidency?

Dr. Peters: Women have just started to be deeply involved into politics. I think with time they will be more active.

A version of this interview first appeared on print on The Voice Newspaper’s second edition of August 20-25, 2008 in the column “Our Guest of The Week”.   Following his death, it was reproduced on The Voice’s column “African Memoir” on June 5-7, 2009.

And it is appearing for the first time online on The North Bank Evening Standard on July 5, 2013.

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