Hidden Histories: Celebrating through Masquerade

Key information

6:00 pm to 9:00 pm
SOAS University of London
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre (BGLT)

About this event

Gambia celebrated its 53rd year as a republic on 24 April and for this occasion we seek to celebrate our independence from total colonial rule by showcasing our cultural diversity as a country in masquerades. 

Masquerade in Africa symbolises unity, as all ethnic and religious groups celebrate together through Masquerade. This resonates across West Africa and its Diaspora as a form of cultural resistance. In other parts of the world this is called Jonkonnu (Junkanoo).

As with many traditions, masquerades are undergoing transformation which sometimes leads to devalue their cultural significance. However, in The Gambia, efforts are made to keep the cultural, social and historical relevance of masquerades like the Kankurang, Zimba, Kumpo, Hunting Devil and others alive. A significant contribution to this is the listing of the Kankurang masquerade of The Gambia as one of the 43 cultural expressions and practices by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity”. Such recognition is demonstrated in The Gambia by the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) that established, with the support of Janjanbureh community, the Kankurang Museum and Festival.  

MBOKA Festival for Arts, Culture and Sports collaborates with SOAS to Celebrate our Hidden Histories through Masquerades with a special presentation on a new forthcoming book about the 200 year history on the Gambian diaspora in Britian, and live performance, film and discussion on the presence, symbolism, meaning, use and history of masquerade in The Gambia and beyond.

We are very honoured to host The Gambia High Commissioner to the UK, Her Excellency Dr Fatou Bensouda.

Event recording


Time Description

Welcome by Professor Fareda Banda, SOAS

Intro by Amma Poku, SOAS Co-Convenor of Hidden Histories Seminar Series

6:10pm-6:15pm Kadija George (Co-Director of Mboka Festival) introduces the event and Mboka Festival

Hassoum Cessay in conversation with Gibril Faal OBE on his forthcoming book
Gambians in the United Kingdom – 1820 to 2020

6:45pm-7:00pm Film - Yaram Arts annual festival
7:00pm-7:30pm Break (drink, purchase books, view exhibition)

Panel Discussion on Masquerade in West Africa

Sokari Douglas Camp, CBE (Nigerian /British Sculptor, Honorary Fellow of SOAS)

Hassoum Ceesay (Director General of the National Centre of Arts and Culture, The Gambia

Njok Malik Jeng (CEO Yaram Arts and co-Director, Mboka Festival)

Chair: Professor Lucy Durán (Professor of Music at SOAS, University of London)

8:15pm-8:30pm Q and A on Masquerade panel
8:30pm-8:45pm Film on masquerade produced by Adama Bah, co-Director of Mboka Festival in association with My Gambia
8:45pm-9:05pm Zimba Lion Masquerade Artist Performance by - Moulaye Diallon (Yaram Arts)
9:05pm-9:15pm Kadija George – Future of Mboka, Close and Thanks


Sokari Douglas Camp studied Fine Art at Central School of Art and Design and at the Royal College of Art. Sokari has represented Britain and Nigeria in National and International exhibitions, she has had over 40 solo shows in venues such as the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute and The Museum of Mankind London. Sokari was shortlisted for the Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth 2003 Her public artworks Battle Bus: Living Memorial for Ken SaroWiwa, 2006, is monument to the writer and Niger Delta activist, 2004.

Douglas Camp’s third solo exhibition at October Gallery in 2022, Jonkonnu Masquerade, included a series of new works exploring the masquerade of ‘Jonkonnu’ both within its Caribbean context and that of the broader African diaspora. Two larger-than-life-sized steel interlinking sculptures, Tussling Jonkonnu, was part of the Kensington and Chelsea Art Week, 2022. Douglas Camp’s  work is at the V&A as part of African Fashion exhibition until May 2023 In 2005 she was awarded a CBE. She is an honorary Fellow of the University of the Arts London and of SOAS.

Hassoum Ceesay is the Director General of the Naticonal Centre of Arts and Culture in The Gambia. He is one of Gambia’s leading historians and has authored several books. His latest title is Masters and Servants: Gambian Chiefs in Colonial Rule : 1894-1965,  (2023) which delves into the  role of district Chiefs in strengthening colonial rule in The Gambia.

Professor Gibril Faal OBE Professor Gibril Faal is the co-founder and director of GK Partners specialising in socially responsible business models, sustainable development and programme implementation. He is a visiting professor in practice at the London School of Economics (LSE), Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA). In 1988 he set up the Afrocentric ‘Naataangeh Study Group’ on African history and anthropology. In 2007, he published a resource paper on ‘Job Ben Solomon: Introduction to the Life of a Gambian Slave-Scholar’. In 2010/11, as patron of the National Portrait Museum, he advised and assisted in the efforts to keep the newly discovered 1733 portrait painting of Job Ben Solomon in the United Kingdom. In 2017, he initiated the Migration and Sustainable Development in The Gambia project (MSDG) in partnership with the governments of Switzerland and The Gambia. His forthcoming book is on ‘Gambians in the United Kingdom – 1820 to 2020’.

Njok Malik Jeng is the founding director of Yaram Arts, an NPO music organisation funded by Arts Council England. For over two decades, he has presented various renowned African artists, ranging from Youssou Ndour, Habib Koite to Sona Jobarteh and Dobet Gnahore. Malik is also a partner member at the Mboka Festival held annually in The Gambia, converging African Diasporans to celebrate their heritage. He is widely consulted on arts and cultural projects with particular focus on Gambia-SeneGambia.

Dr Kadija George Sesay, FRSA, Hon FRSL is co-founder and co-director of Mboka Festival of Arts Culture and Sport. FRSA. She is an independent researcher and literary activist. She is the founder of the AfriPoeTree app on Pan-Africanism and Poetry and  has edited several anthologies of work by writers of African and Asian descent. She has received several awards for her work in the creative arts.

High Commissioner to UK Dr. Fatou Bensouda served as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court - (The ICC, ) 2012-2021,) having assumed office in 2012. In 2011, she was elected by consensus by the Assembly of States Parties to serve in this capacity. Dr. Bensouda was nominated and supported as the sole African candidate for election to the post by the African Union. 

She is the first woman to serve as the Prosecutor of the ICC. Her nine year mandate as ICC Prosecutor ended on 15 June 2021. Under her leadership, Dr. Bensouda has greatly reinforced the capacity of her Office through a number of strategic and managerial initiatives and expanded her Office’s activities to cover 14 investigations, and countless active preliminary examinations in conflicts around the world. 

Through her work, she has strived to advance accountability for atrocity crimes, highlighting in particular the importance of addressing traditionally underreported crimes such as sexual and gender-based crimes, mass atrocities against and affecting children, as well as the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage within the Rome Statute framework. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the distinguished ICJ International Jurists Award (2009), presented by the then President of India P. D. Patil; the 2011 World Peace Through Law Award presented by the Whitney Harris World Law Institute, the American Society of International Law’s Honorary Membership Award (2014), and the XXXV Peace Prize by the United Nations Association of Spain (2015).

In addition to receiving several honorary doctorates, Dr. Bensouda has been listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (2012); by the New African magazine as one of the “Most Influential Africans;” by Foreign Policy as one of the “Leading Global Thinkers” (2013), by Jeune Afrique as one of 50 African women who, by their actions and initiatives in their respective roles, advance the African continent (2014 & 2015), and by Forbes magazine as Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women (2020).

Dr. Bensouda (and the Office she led as ICC Prosecutor) have been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their accomplishments and work in advancing international criminal justice, without fear or favour. Dr. Bensouda currently serves as The Gambian High Commissioner to the Court of St James’s and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Republics of Austria, Ireland, Finland and the State of Israel and the Vatican City.

Chair: Professor Lucy Duran, SOAS School of Arts/Music

  • The event is part of the Hidden Histories series convened by the SOAS Library Decolonising working group.
  • Small refreshments available and drinks reception.

BookLove, the Multicultural Travelling Book Carnival and online shop which travels to schools and festivals across the country, has  a full range of books exploring the event's themes. Twenty pence from every book they sell goes to their GoFundMe which is raising money to donate free books to people and places who can't afford them.

  • Use discount code BOOKLOVECARNIVALSOAS

Suba Kunda publishers have a selection of Gambian titles. They publish books in the pursuit of human development,

Supported by GK Partners and the MSDG Project.