Nii Ayikwei Parkes and James Murua

The Mboka Festival of Arts, Culture and Sport more popularly known as the Mboka Festival 2018 kicked off with a ceremony at the Senegambia Hotel in Bajul on January 12, 2018.

The Mboka Festival 2018 was born in 2017 to shine a light on the Gambia cultural and sporting traditions to the people of the West African country and the world. The shindig which has a strong literary arm kicked off with a bang with Ngugi wa Thiong’o as the headliner. It was quite a success for the festival organisers and you can read our glowing reports about it all here.

The Senegambia Hotel, one of the bigger hotels on what is the Electric Avenue in Bajul’s tourist district, was the space that was hosting festivities that would kick of the Mboka Festival. By the poolside, festival guests like headliner Linton Kwesi Johnson alongside a starting cast of many including Dorothea Smartt, Tunde Jegede, Femi Olufowoji Jr, Musa Bah, Anni Domingo,Aisha Fofona Ibrahim, Isatou Alwar Graham, Bintou Sanneh, Olusola Oyeleye, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Natalia Molebatsi, Ade Solanke, Nadia Maddy, Louisa Egbunike, and many more.

The guests would be treated to a dinner of joloff rice, beef domoda (mama Africa), chicken mustard with chilli and mustard and the typical deserts with one untypical one called Chakri which is a combination of couscous and yoghurt. The food assuaged the hunger pangs and was a nice segue into the “International Junior Chef of the Year” competition where students of the culinary arts would compete for the title of being the best young cook in the land.

The literary section of the event then begun and this section was emceed by festival curator Kadija Sesay who seemed to be suffering the curator’s disease… losing your voice as the evening progressed. There were presentations of work by who would talk about a young Senegambian woman who was captured at a child and presented to Queen Victoria as a gift. Phillis Wheatley as she was called then would then be raided as a princess and would go on be the first published black poet; this was in the 1700s.

The evening was then followed by poetry performances from some of those who were in the audience in the dozens.It was a memorable kick off to the activities of what promised to be a memorable festival.