Top: Letter from Africa: The art of drawing your address in The Gambia


A street scene in Serrekunda, The Gambia - archive shot

In our sequence of letters from African journalists, Sierra Leonean-Gambian author Ade Daramy explains why it’s straightforward to get misplaced in The Gambia.

“Flip proper on the crimson transport container, reverse the college on the freeway, you may see two roads, take the one to the best after which left on the unpainted nook store on the second junction…”

That is a part of what passes for giving instructions to an handle in lots of components of The Gambia.

As soon as you permit the capital, Banjul, and head into the encircling cities, you end up struggling to seek out something quite a lot of named streets.

After I went on-line to have a look at maps of the nation, the total horror of the state of affairs dawned on me: there are a whole bunch, presumably 1000’s, of anonymous streets.

I’ve typically questioned whether or not Irish rock band U2 had been truly considering of The Gambia after they wrote their hit The place the Streets Have No Identify.

‘Be aware the landmarks’

The exception is Banjul, the place roads with names like Clarkson, Wellington, Anglesea, Lancaster, Peel and Haddington retain the legacy of the British colonial period, when this neat little metropolis was known as Bathurst.

More moderen-ish ones in Banjul bear names akin to Nelson Mandela Avenue, OAU Avenue and Ecowas Avenue.

However most Gambians, some of their dotage, have by no means lived in a road with a reputation or a home with a quantity.

Ade Daramy

Ade Daramy

Sierra Leoneans, by comparability, enjoy recounting road names and the nation even has a convention of streets competing in soccer video games towards one another”

And but in every single place you go and are requested to fill in a type, which occurs lots, there’s a field marked “handle”.

After having negotiated this at a number of locations, I went to open a checking account and joked with the account supervisor: “Why trouble with asking folks’s addresses, in the event that they stay in unnumbered homes in unnamed streets?”

I actually was not ready for the reply, delivered with a casualness bordering simply this facet of nonchalance: “The field is large enough so that you can draw the place your home is, in relation to the closest landmarks.”

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Individuals typically have to attract their addresses on types in The Gambia

So it was that I put my particularly poor drawing abilities to giving a imprecise illustration of my abode in relation to the native petrol station and police station.

Although after I went again just lately to the financial institution, the supervisor virtually had the final giggle, saying the types had been redesigned – now not was there the large field to check one’s drawing abilities, however there may be nonetheless an “handle” field, adopted by “nearest bus cease/landmark”.

‘I quit explaining’

As I just lately walked alongside one among Gambia’s lengthy essential thoroughfares – Kairaba Avenue, a reputation taken from the center identify of independence chief President Dawada Kairaba Jawara – I believed I might make an enquiry in one among about 30 or so facet streets that lead off it.

On a correctly paved road, I requested the Lebanese proprietor, who stated his mini-supermarket had been there for a few years: “Are you able to inform me the identify of this road, please? I need to inform somebody to come back and meet me right here later.”

“Err, I do not find out about a reputation – simply inform them: ‘The road reverse Pipeline Mosque, off Kairaba Avenue.'”

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Ade Daramy

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That is the road reverse Pipeline Mosque, off Kairaba Avenue

So for folks fielding 10 telephone calls in a day from these eager to pay a go to, they may spend a big a part of that day giving instructions.

And but, after I point out this to people who’ve lived right here for some time or for all their lives (and do not thoughts dropping the odd hour or two a day giving instructions), they act as if it’s the most conventional factor on the earth.

I incessantly quit explaining and say: “Meet me on the turntable” – as roundabouts are known as right here – or the “visitors mild” and proceed to satisfy the particular person at one among these apparent landmarks, saving us each a lot of time.

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Even should you zoom in on Google Maps, streets don’t have any names off Kairaba Avenue

Am I lacking one thing? Is there a neighborhood customized or superstition about naming streets? In that case, it should be a latest phenomenon; in spite of everything, these previous streets in Banjul just about all have names.

Parcel-delivery issues?

Or is it simply that successive governments, together with the quickly unravelling present coalition, have all the time had higher issues to do than attend to this “small” matter?

Different former colonies within the area – English and Portuguese – have road names. Sierra Leoneans, by comparability, enjoy recounting road names and the nation even has a convention of streets competing in soccer video games towards one another. Arduous to “announce” a winner if there isn’t any road identify.

Extra on The Gambia:

I’ve been coming frequently to The Gambia since 1997 and I’ve but to listen to something approaching a solution to this conundrum. Even a ridiculous one would suffice.

In the event that they addressed this, consider the variety of jobs that could possibly be created: postal employees would have addresses to ship to – so extra parcels may be despatched, these promoting home numbers would possibly abruptly have a market to cater to.

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Many vacationers come to The Gambia for its Atlantic coast seashores

On my manner dwelling from work earlier this month, I drove by the native workplace of a widely known, worldwide supply firm and was tempted to go in and ask how they coped.

Curiosity received the higher of me and I known as DHL. In fact, I ought to have guessed: the sender offers the total identify and phone variety of the recipient – as soon as the package deal arrives, preparations are made between the recipient and the corporate about the place to take or accumulate the parcel.

Yours, baffled and more and more exasperated, of someplace close to a petroleum station, reverse the {hardware} store, only a few ft previous the deserted container, on the freeway resulting in the airport, Outdated Yundum, The Gambia.

Extra Letters from Africa

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