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We are very saddened to have to report the death of BUBA DRAMMEH earlier this month (November 2012). We had phoned him to inform him that we were sendin him some money
from the sales of some batiks. He received the call in hospital explaining that he had been in an accident on his bicycle. Later, he was transferred from
the small hospital to the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul to deal with internal injuries. Two weeks later we learned that he had died.
Buba is a talented batik artist from The Gambia. We admired his work on our first visit to The Gambia in 1997 and during subsequent visits have become friends. His batiks have been incorporated in the design for the CD "Mansalou", featuring the kora playing and singing of Jali Sherrifo Konteh. (follow this link for details of the CD). These and other CDs are available from Compound Sounds.
Buba Drammeh was born at Nuimi Nemakunku village, in the Upper Nuimi district on North Bank. His father's name was Saikou Ba Drammeh and he was a hunter. He died very early but Buba has been told that he was a hunter of crocodiles and other creatures. His mother's name is Jankang Nass, now married again and living in Nuimi Lamin where Buba now lives with his wife, five children, adopted nephew and other family members.There is a large and very productive vegetable garden there which is run as a co-operative by all the hard-working women. Their vegetables are renowned and lorries come from Senegal as well as various places in The Gambia to buy the vegetables.
He attended Bakalary primary school in the Upper Niumi district and then Berending Secondary Technical school. He then decided to learn to do batik as an occupation. His uncles, Lamin Anta Jarju and Pa Ousman Jarju taught him.
Buba used to have a stall in Bakau, near the Katchikally crocodile pool, which is how we first met him, but the people he rented it from wanted the space so he returned to live in his own North Bank village of Nuimi Lamin and set up a workshop under a mango tree there. With the money we have been able to send him from the sales of these batiks and t-shirts, Buba was able to buy land and start building his own compound. It was a gradual process as the everyday needs of his family had to come first, but when he could afford it he bought another bag of cement. He planned where everything would go and planted trees in appropriate places. These had to be well protected from the various wild animals who like eating fresh green shoots!
Gradually the walls round his compound were completed and a temporary gate put in place. His workshop was near to the road and occasionally tourists would stop on their way to Juffreh and might buy a batik. He used the space within the walls to plant cassava and a few other vegetables, so although building was progressing slowly he was at least able to provide some food for his family.
Buba had also been teaching in the local school and the head had been very pleased with his ability to teach crafts to the pupils but because he was not a qualified teacher, and could not afford to train, he eventually had to leave.
So in 1996 Buba decided to go back to his "own occupation of arts", and as he says "embarked on feeding my family. Everything depends on this batik, that's what I am doing. It is a hand to mouth existence because you have a lot of families that depend on you and there is very little. That is the main problem. Whatever you have that is what you eat. It depends on every day you work, whatsoever you have, that is what you will eat."
However, he now has a job in a Children's Centre in Juffreh, the village of Kunta Kinteh fame, and en route to James Island of slave trade infamy. It is a popular tourist destination and large numbers of children hanging around can be a distraction. So an NGO set up a Children's Centre. The children either go to school in the morning or the afternoon and the rest of the time they are free and go to the Centre, where Buba supervises craft activities with the morning or afternoon group. It is a few miles from his home and he is employed six days a week and although the wages are small he has now been able to build a mud brick house within the compound walls and move in with his family and stop paying rent. He and the whole village are still very poor however, and any batik sales are very welcome.
Tina wrote an article about Buba which was published in the magazine "Fabrications". (Issue 40, 2006, ISSN 1467 8772).
We reproduce the article here:-