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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

The 2nd Kankurang Festival through the eyes of Professional Photographer, Michael Lyons

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

"I wish everyone who visits the Gambia could take the time to travel through this amazing country to see that difference between the coast and the rest of the Gambia. If you are lucky enough to be there in January, please visit the Festival - you will not be disappointed."
Michael Lyons

The very successful Second Kankurang Festival taking place in January 2019 was a particular attraction to professional photographer Michael Lyons. Michael visited The Gambia for the first time last year, 2018, with his wife and daughter after learning of the country from his wife’s parents who had visited, in particular, to go to Fathala in Senegal to experience walking with the lions. Enticed by their reports of The Gambia, the Lyons family decided to visit and included Janjanbureh in order to see the hippos and to explore more of the country, plus visit a different side of the Gambia other than the beach resorts.

Michael's wonderful photos attracted a lot of attention on The Gambia Tourism Forum and I began asking him questions about his visit to Janjanbureh. We quickly formed an online friendship and he became Facebook friends with our Gambian Director, Omar Jammeh. Michael had already formed a contact with another charity, The Helping Charity and spent some time with them in 2018, returning again this year. Photos of that visit can be seen here.

I recently asked Michael a series of questions and I quote some answers.


How was it you came to take photos of the Festival?

"Being a professional photographer, taking pictures is part of my life. I turned 50 this year and had decided I would volunteer my skills to put something back into a country that had shown me a different side to the world. I had already spoken to Helping Charity and your comments on my previous photos got us talking which led to my offering my time to help to JUST ACT."

Michael and Sarah had a mammoth day on Friday 18th January, the first day of the Festival! They left Gatwick on an early flight and managed to reach Janjanbureh all in the same day…... a journey of roughly 3,800 miles.

We had stayed over at Gatwick airport the night before because it's a 3-hour drive from home and with a 6:30 flight, a little bit of a lie in, was worth it. (I seriously doubt his description of a ‘lie in” knowing they would need to have been at the airport very early!)

The flight was in early which was good. The taxi journey was an excellent opportunity to photograph the countryside as we travelled, also time to change up some money and buy a phone sim.”

We used Black and White Safari on our first visit as they were the company Sarah's parents had used the year before. The wheelchair (for daughter Georgia) was never a problem with them, we used them this time only to get us to JJB, as I knew them. We had to get the JJB without any concerns. Originally we were going by bus, but due to changes in our travel plans we just needed to reach JJB with no issues.

Out and About (This album includes some of those photos )


"We stayed a Gamwork. (500 Dalasi per night) The room was a good size with a large shower room, also a communal kitchen and living room area. Omar sorted the room."

On Friday night there was the Jaliba Kuyateh Concert

Concert poster

Having started started their day so incredibly early, understandably, Michael and Sarah only managed to stay for the first half. Musa Foon, who is one of the very original JUST ACT members and Curator of The Kankurang Centre explained the ‘Praise singing' where people would shower Jalibah with money to include their name in his songs. The women would be so beautifully dressed and made up and the men are not far behind!

Saturday morning saw a visit to the Information Centre with President of the Kankurang Festival, our own Omar Jammeh and to the Kankurang Museum where Musa Foon gave a very knowledgeable explanation of the exhibits there.

Here they were able to see models of the various masquerades from throughout the country…. but how much better to see them in reality later that day as they paraded through the town - and then the festival that night!

Masquerades of the regions

The parade! - let these photos speak for themselves!

Scenes along the roads of Janjanbureh as everyone joins in with song and dance

And the chance to see those real masquerades as they too joined the parade

A little rest in the day was in order before the real festivities of the night began

Eye Africa interview Omar Jammeh

And the fun really begins

To see more of Michael's stunning photos please go to his Facebook albums Selection

Album 1 Festival Part 1

Album 2 Festival Part 2

A link will be added to his personal website soon

This generous action of taking and sharing these wonderful atmospheric photos can only help bring more people to future

Annual Kankurang Festivals in Janjanbureh. We all thank you Michael and Sarah in both time, enthusiasm

and the self funding of every aspect.

As it develops you will know you were part of its history

See you next year!!!

January 17-19th 2020

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