By Adama Tine
Hassoum Ceesay, director general of the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) during a sensitization and capacity building forum on the “Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage in The Gambia” on Tuesday told lawmakers of the National Assembly to consider ratifying the Underwater Cultural Heritage in The Gambia when brought before them.
He said Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage is internationally recognized and The Gambia should not be an exception.
The forum, funded by “UNESCO Participation Programme 2020-2021” is meant to train students from primary to senior secondary schools on the importance of Underwater Cultural Heritage. The training was held at the Regional Education Directorate Region 1 in Old Jeshwang.
The NCAC DG disclosed that in 2021, UNESCO brought an international agreement to protect underwater cultural heritage, adding that culture and heritage fall into two broad categories: Tangible and Untangible heritage.
“We want Gambian people to be aware of the convention and for it to be ratified by the National Assembly,” he said.
He added that the convention has funds which his institution can work with National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) to train particularly the underwater archeologists, adding that the underwater heritage is there but they cannot be seen because of lack of qualified personnel to dive into the River Gambia.
Lamin Jarju, Senior Programme Officer of NATCOM on behalf of his Secretary General said River Gambia was one of the first European trade routes to Africa since 1446. According to him, a core team of four divers have been trained in the basics of scuba diving and techniques of underwater archeology.
Jarju disclosed that a large part of Gambia’s shared heritage, remnants of human actions, habitats and encounters are found in locations which today are covered by seas, rivers or lakes as naval conflicts led to the sinking of vessels and fleets leaving important, comprehensive and untouched testimonies to our past lying in the deep.
He stated that the underwater cultural heritage of the world is specifically protected by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, adopted in 2001 by the UNESCO General Conference which outlines basic principles for the protection of underwater cultural heritage.