By Momodou Jarju
The President of the Writers Association of The Gambia (W AG), Cherno Omar Barry, has revealed that the ‘100 Most Influential Gambian Writers List’ they issued on 24 August, 2020 is far from perfect and not exhaustive.
“If anyone should question whether the Writers Association of the Gambia got it right with their list of 100 Most Influential Gambian Writers, I will allay your fears by assuring you that we were far from perfect in this endeavor,” he said.
Dr. Barry said to determine a ‘perfect’ list would have required more research and an extensive survey from many readers for which they have no resources to do, adding the criteria would have been much more robust and just may be many on the present list would not have even been there.
“I admit that several people are absent from the list and going by the very simple criteria we set ourselves, we would have had more than 200 people. But our database was not rich enough to include all even though we made serious consultations. Part of those absent are former WAG Executive members, founders of the previous writers’ associations, writers and researchers, influential journalists, historians, religious scholars who have contributed to religious knowledge through their scholarly productions, educationists, and many more,” Dr. Barry said.
WAG President extended their apologies to anyone who feels offended because they are left out, while adding that they cannot please all nor can include all. He further said many of those left out are perhaps more influential than many on the list, but they have already admitted this was not a perfect exercise.
Dr. Barry explained that the list comprises of three generations: the founders of the previous associations and those of the Ndaanan era, the not-so-young, and the young emerging writers.
For each category, Dr. Barry said they have taken few to represent the group and as a maiden effort, they are confident that the endeavour is a good attempt despite all its imperfections.
“The Writers Association of The Gambia has since last year been engaged in recognising our own by organising the first ever WAG award ceremony where several writers, poets and playwrights were recognised for their contribution to our literary landscape. The WAG has reached out to its counterparts in Senegal and Ghana, as well as to Pan-African Writers’ Association (PAWA) to build bridges and create opportunities for our young, inexperienced budding writers. Our activities this year were stifled by the pandemic, but even there our energetic youthful executive has been very active organising activities around writing and publishing, especially for our young writers,” the author said.
With the publication of this list, Dr. Barry hoped that those who have been left out can reach out to them so that they can enrich their database.
“Extend our message and ask others to reach out to the WAG and support its endeavours, however modest, because the Association cannot survive without its members. We will also appreciate all constructive criticisms that will encourage us do more, in a much better way than initiated. As we grow, we will surely make the awards and recognitions more competitive and more deserving,” he said.
Barry also used the opportunity to urge Gambians to celebrate their own while they are alive rather than recognise them after they are gone.