By Ndey Sowe
Touray Kunda Construction Company has been awarded a contract by the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) to carry out the rehabilitation and conservation works at the Mungo Park Memorial Obelisk located in Sami Karantaba in the Central River Region, which is one of the country’s much cherished historic sites.
The overall contract which is valued at D4.039 million dalasi involves several components all of which relate to rehabilitation, conservation and value addition to the Mungo Park Memorial Obelisk.
The signing ceremony took place on Friday at the conference room of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in Banjul.
The first component of the works is to secure the site with a solid perimeter fence so that the Obelisk can be protected from intrusion.
The second component of the works is the erection of a site kiosk museum; while the third component is the erecting of a water supply and solar lighting system.
In addition, there will be visitor convenience, including benches, while work will take three months to complete, according to the contract document.
The Minister of Tourism and Culture Hamat N.K. Bah who was deputized by the Deputy Permanent Secretary Mamadi Dampha, disclosed that the contract was duly floated and following the necessary procurement procedure, was won by Touray Kunda Construction Company Ltd, who was duly represented by its Managing Director to sign the contract with the NCAC.
According to him, works at the site are meant to conserve the site and to also add new attractions like the site museum so that the visitors’ experience will be greatly enhanced.
The rehabilitation, he added, is in line with the policy of the Government of President Adama Barrow to enhance the cultural and heritage sector to economic development and to project a strong Gambian cultural identity.
He added that the project also falls in line with the provisions of the new Arts and Culture Policy 2018-2027 which seeks to optimize the conservation of heritage sites for inclusive economic development through community friendly tourism.
He further disclosed that the monies for this project come from the Development Budget that the Ministry has received from the national treasury to improve the heritage sites.
“So far in the past year, the development budget has enabled NCAC to rehabilitate the Kerr Batch Stone Circle UNESCO World Heritage Site which I will soon formally open at Nianija. Other improvement works like extension of electricity has been completed at Juffure/Albreda sites, Kankurang Center at Macarthy and Fort Bullen in Barra thanks to the Development Budget,” Minister Bah disclosed.
Bah commended the NCAC through its Director General and Board Chairman for the steadfast and commendable work they have done in this regard and enjoined them to ensure this series of success is repeated in the incoming Mungo Park memorial rehabilitation project.
He assured them of the government’s continued support to the sector for national development, while advising the contractor to deliver on time and in good quality as has been done by the other contractor at Kerr Batch site.
“I urge the NCAC to regularly monitor the progress of works and give periodic updates to the Board and the Ministry,” he advised.
For his part, Mr. Hassoum Ceesay, the director general of NCAC, narrated that the Obelisk was built in 1944 by Governor Sir Hillary Blood to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Mungo Park to the River Gambia region in his ardent pursuit of the source of the river Niger.
He added that Mungo Park was a Scottish Surgeon, who later in life became interested in ‘discovering’ new territories for the imperial Government of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Ceesay revealed that Mungo Park was sent out in 1794 by the Royal Geographical Society to find the source of the river Niger and also see the possibilities of trading Ivory and Gold. He embarked on his journey and passed through The Gambia on his way to Niger through the present-day Mali Republic.
He added that in improving the site, the NCAC will be achieving the following; protect for posterity the legacy of the famous explorer, underscore the contribution of The Gambia to the success of the international exploration, especially the help offered to explorers like Mungo Park by local Gambian chiefs and women such as the Signaras, and add value to a major monument thereby making it more productive in terms of revenue to the NCAC as well boost cultural and rural tourism.