Abridged Conversation with Malang (Secretary of Makasutu Conservation Trust).
Malang can you give me some context in terms of what you do, what the Ballabu does and it’s relation to WOW:
“There are fourteen villages. Three district chiefs. We work in the Western region of Gambia, the population around 100 000 people. I am the secretary to the local organization, CBO (Community Based Organization – within the Makasutu Wildlife Trust). The Ballubu conservation is a committee with the concept to create a 85km2 conservation area. Try to alleviate poverty allowing for jobs to be created for the community. One of the main concerns is the rural urban drift, try to do away with it. Ideally want people to live in their own village, and have own job. In Gambia there is usually one breadwinner - alleviating the urban rural drift will help sustain household unit. My overall role deals with training local communities about the importance of biodiversity so that they can speak for themselves to tourists, protect their environment, act as their own decision makers themselves”. Wide Open Walls is significant. Tourists would visit the walls, artworks create networks between the villages. Money from tourist visits would then filter back into villages… shared amongst communities.
How does one negotiate the positive and negative affects of tourism? how do you negotiate the thin line between the pros and cons?
Train people using sensitization techniques… Talk to the communities. Avoiding the negative impacts of tourism while maintaining our culture.
What about the danger of relying on outsiders to bring in money? Cycle of dependency on tourist season?Children ask us for minties now (sweets) want happens if that request changes to money?
Through sustainable development, ensure the projects have longevity. Don’t want to rely on external aid all the time. Children must learn about the importance of the art through learning how to create art themselves, not just pretty murals to look at. Only want sustainable projects within the community.
How do you think Art can help people? Teaches respect for your environment . Need to understand it to appreciate it.
Question posed by Rowan: Why do we need to change this place, if people are saying it is sufficient? why not just let it develop internally?
Because artists from the Gambia need international networks to develop internally. We need skills exchange and knowledge exchange, we are a developing country. Need to show locals that they can do art and appreciate it.
Do you think Gambians have the perception that they live in poverty? People tell me they are happy, but what do they tell u as a Gambian? There is poverty. People are relying on well water. Some land not fertile. Capital for farming utensils is lacking. Skills development and sustainable projects in the form of capacity building is what is lacking.