Muhammad, my son,
It was your birthday, yesterday, and we thank Allah for the blessing that you are. Yours, this year, comes a few days after we celebrated the birth of your youngest brother who became the latest blessing into our family on October 10,
His is a name uncommon in our society and thus I thought it fitting to do an epistle extolling the gems of our heritage embedded in his appellation.
My good son, names are important and from them could be deciphered history, intention and extant situations. I have penned a dozen essays on the subject “What’s in a name” so I will not delve into the general principles of this matter.
I did name you after my father, the late Landing Binta Njie of Sabach Kataba and that was a for a good reason; my my dad passed away when I was but 3 years old; and the purist in me gave you the original version of that name, Muhammad, but the late Landing Sabally, deserved some fitting memory and that is why my family members call you Baba.
But let me focus on the present subject, which is the name given to your brother. The baby was named Lamin Kimintang Sabally and his name has two roots that are diametrically opposite historically.
The first honouree in this name is the baby’s maternal grandfather Alhagie Lamin Sarr, son of the late Archie Sarr and Ya Ngoneh Jobe of Primet street in Banjul.
Indeed the love, care and affection he has shown me can never be fully rewarded but naming my son after him is a good indication of my deeper intention.
It was this same intention and sense of honour and respect for him and his family that I named your other younger sibling and friend, Latirr Sosseh Begay Sabally after his ancestors as clearly extolled in one of my essays on this theme.
And, now, to the middle name of our new baby. Kimintang was the King of Niani, a Kingdom that stretched from Senegal into The Gambia where his thrown was at the historic city of Ndougousine. The legendary Mansa Kimintang Camara, King of Niani was the longest serving sovereign of that dynasty. This king also has another name “Suto kiling” (meaning, “One Night” in Mandinka), but that is a story for another day; you will find the secrets behind his names if you take the challenge to research this history.
If you should proceed to do this research, then you would find out that, like Ethiopia, the bastion of the realm of our forebears called Niani, was most resistant to colonial incursions. And also the canons Mansa Kimingtang seized from the colonial aggressors are still in the custody of the Senegalese curators in Goree.
Furthermore, the story of Lat Jor Ngoneh Latirr’s failed attempt to invade the fortresses of our ancestors in Niani is one well-worth studying and analyzing. Out of this expedition that was foiled with the help of some strange mysterious bees, came the Senegambian Xalam classic called “Niani Bagne Na”. Now you will come to understand why the Xakam star Jali Matarr sang that song on the day of the naming ceremony of your brother Lamin Kimintang Sabally.
“What then, is our connection with this legend?” You may ask. Of course your grandfather comes from the village of Kataba in Sabach Sanjal, but the original Kataba where his forebears came from is in Niani and I am told that the fort of our legendary warrior forefathers still exists there to date. The Sabally’s of Niani where among the fearless warriors that defended the realm of Mansa Kimintang Camara and of course our own surname, Sabally, came up for a reason; that history will be examined in subsequent epistles. But our forebears were all surnamed Camara.
“What’s in the surname, Sabally” will be the thesis of the sequel to this epistle.
Until then, I wish you a very good semester and success in your studies abroad.
Economist, International Speaker and prolific author, Momodou Sabally is the founder of Sabally Leadership Academy (SLA), and former Presidential Affairs Minister.