Category Archives: Baati Linguere

A weekly selection of Wolof proverbs


Muye maaga, nyu naan ko dorm jaangal
Sor maageh teki, nyepa jeriñu
Ndekeh boba denj banj kulen tanhal
Teye mu togg gestu, neh nyii weru nyu
Janga, jonga, jangaat
Bobu njumteh dou lumuye nangu waat
Olof bi, kamil bi, boleh ko ak nasaraan
Bunj kor chi oubil tayreh mu daal di naan
Di jonganteh ak metit, hel mi wekh ni fourit
Sen baat yi di delusi, njahlem di laww
Janga, maaga, teki, nopalu, nopaleh
Nyaar yi chi jiitu, mu nyefeh
Nyeta yi chi tegu, aka nyor jafeh
Deka chi jame, taka, tiki
Ba teye jii banya teki
Nopalu don lumuye jemaat
Nopaleh, mom reka laye helaat
Teye ndaw done na makk
Janga njerinyu ko, holam jehh takk
Liko ndeye ak baye geum lor won
Teye heye na, dindi ko, baayi yon
Delu cha dorin ba, sega chi daan doleh
Saani tayreh ya, di moytu nyakor boleh
Reychu wèss na, waye doleh dess na
Nyaha, nyefeh, beh haye teki
Mom Talibé, li leh ko sohal.


Of Individual Blunders And Collective Repraisal

One rotten potato…

” Benn pompiteer bu nëb yàq na pañe”

English Equivalent: One rotten potato spoils the whole sack

Don’t you hate it when you hear people chastise and criticise a group you’re a part of, based on their experience with just ONE member of that group? Yes? Me too!

 You feel like screaming out loud and telling them NOT everyone is like THAT! You just want to use all of your energy to vindicate the entire group, cutting off that ‘black sheep’ of course. There are a million and one examples Linguere can give. Think about the whole of womankind tagged ‘untrustworthy’ due to a certain Kocc Barma’s experience with ONE woman; all Muslims classified as terrorists just because ONE extremist decided to blow himself up, killing other people around him in the process;  the entire male sex labelled  ‘unfaithful’ and ‘cheaters’ because ONE Fatou, Kumba or MaSireh had an ugly experience with ONE Dodou, Kelefa or Samba; all last-born kids seen as ‘rude and disrespectful’ because ONE thiaat* steps on the wrong line. I could go on and on but I’ll just peg the list here with this last example: all journalists tagged as being irresponsible and unethical as a result of ONE person’s blunder! This could be the case in other professions but for reasons of proximity and the convenience of today’s reference story, we’ll stick to journalism.

Yesterday, a good number of people watched as drama unfolded on Facebook Gambia. I wouldn’t go into the details because I risk throwing a tantrum and turning this post into a rant. A certain Gambian journalist had shared a photo of a Gambian model describing her appearance as ‘unGambian’. Almost immediately, comments started milling in from all corners, expressing different opinions on the photo. One group was on the journalist’s side, mainly using religion and Gambian culture as their reference points. Friends and fans of the said model jumped in, defending the photo, basing their arguments on the professionalism exhibited and the model’s quest to make a name for The Gambia on the international runways. The brouhaha continued, each camp defending their stance. I followed the drama quietly, opting to keep my thoughts to myself. However, I couldn’t ignore the many remarks on the lack of ethics displayed by the journalist in sharing a private photo without the owner’s consent. Facebookers who know him lashed out at him, noting their disappointment at his practice, despite being recognised as a journalist. A few people on another social network site threw offhand remarks on the callous and disappointing manner in which journalists go about their work. I felt like screaming, for it was wrong to tag us all with the same label. I am not oblivious to the fact that there are indeed journalists who leave the rest of the fraternity wishing the Earth would open up and swallow us; microphones, cameras, pens, papers, computers included. Nevertheless, we have all seen a fair number of these ‘informers’ and ‘educators’ do a remarkable job, worthy of praise and recognition. Give them the credit!

I’m pretty sure this will not be the last time I’ll blog on this issue. Apply it to everyday life and the actions we’re surrounded by and you just might notice the unfairness of it all. They say man is not perfect and it is natural to make mistakes. It is quite evident that some people outshine others in various departments. It is also clear that some people can never really deliver as expected. However, we should learn to refrain from generalising, no matter the situation. There will always be that one person out there, who’s absolutely excellent at what he does and thus, will be offended by the derogatory remarks thrown at his clique!  A single rotten potato might spoil the whole sack, but only if it goes unnoticed. Detected at an early stage, it can be picked out and discarded, saving the rest. That way, we’re only left with a sack full of fresh potatoes, ready for your pot! Think about it.

*thiaat– youngest child/last-born

P.S: I got a couple of messages from Linguerites asking to be prompted when a new post goes up. I don’t trust my memory so I’ll direct you to the services WordPress has provided, to make life easier. You may either click on the ‘follow Linguere’ widget on the right and receive instant e-mails or hit the ‘Like’ tab on the Linguere on Facebook widget and get updates on your Facebook Newsfeed. Et voila, everything is sorted out! 🙂

~Beh benen aljuma~

Good Friday, Better Saturday; Naanburu wins


”Lamou saff, kako niam moko xamm”

English Translation: ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating”

It’s 7a.m and I can’t mistake my human alarm clock for anything in the world. My mother’s voice in all its calmness would breeze through the room with a stern ‘You girls had better wake up now so we can finish up early‘. I pretend not to hear, but a second ‘visit’ to my room would always get me scurrying out of bed like the idiomatic mouse. It was Saturday, the day after Good Friday. The previous day, I’d taken delight in stuffing my little tummy with all sorts of naanburu, sent to us by our Catholic family and friends. Okay, get that confused look off your face. I’ll explain what naanburu is. A direct translation would give ‘drinking bread’, but I’ll refrain from going down that path. Naanburu is a mixture of steamed rice balls, baobab juice and sugar that ends up being a sumptuous dessert, or in the case of Good Friday, a great meal! On this day, Christians(mainly Catholics) prepare naanburu and share with their family and friends as they celebrate the end of the Lenten Season. It could be likened to the traditional sharing of lamb on Eid al Adha. At home, it had gradually become a tradition to prepare our naanburu on the Saturday(Better Saturday?), for the simple reason of avoiding waste. I have never been fully convinced, but er, let’s just say I’ve accepted the practice. 

On the eve of our Better Saturday, my mom would measure out a lot of rice, mixing the variety to obtain the perfect texture. The rice would then be soaked up, allowed to dry and get ground into powder. At night, we’d all sit in a circle, calabashes and bowls in hand, slowly transforming the powder into small balls, an activity known as ‘Arraw‘. The kids would usually be exempted from this, as their arraw skills are not usually satisfactory. After going through the many tubs of rice powder, the finished product is then poured into plastic bags and stored in the freezer, ready to use the next day. Early Saturday morning, the older women would wake up an hour earlier and set up fire stoves at the back of the family compound. Pots of varying sizes, filled with boiling water are used to steam the rice balls until cooked , after which the younger ladies would set to work, preparing the rich delicacy:naanburu. The uniformity in movement, supervision from my mother, hearty conversation around the huge tubs and the excitement of going around town distributing bowls of naanburu are what I truly miss today. The regular recipients of the DaCosta Kunda naanburu never failed to give us ‘feather-in cap’ moments. I remember a particular family in Kanifing Estate, whose kids would always wait outside for us and exclaim happily ‘Mama, naanburu bu nexx bi niowna‘, meaning the great-tasting naanburu had arrived. My sister would make sure to keep bragging about this, even when we’d all grown used to the compliments. Don’t get it twisted, it might not even be the best naanburu in The Gambia. Yup, that’s me trying to be modest :-D. We would spend the whole day, usually from 1pm to night time, distributing naanburu all over town, from Banjul to Brikama. Exhaustion would finally get the better of us and while everyone prepared for Easter Eve mass, my sister and I would gladly seek our beds, trying to catch some sleep before the midnight parties started. Below, I’ll give a short naanburu recipe for my dear Linguerites, taken directly from the head and written with hands experienced in the art of naanburu-preparation. Promise me you won’t show any disappointment, even if it’s what you feel after reading. 


Ingredients (No quantities stated. Use just as much as you need)

Rice; Baobab Fruit; Sugar; Water; Salt; Flavouring Essence; desiccated coconut(optional); Fresh Bananas(optional); Milk(optional)


Wash and soak rice in clean water for about two hours. Strain out, allow to dry and grind into powder(preferably with a machine). Sieve to get finer texture.

Clean baobab fruit and soak for about an hour. Mix and strain with sieve or clean cloth to get baobab juice. Set aside.

Using a calabash or wide bowl, roll rice flour into small/medium-sized balls. Leave to sit for a moment.

Steam over a pot of boiling water, in a colander covered with clean, moist cloth. 

When cooked(colour changes from white to almost transparent), pound gently in mortar and pestle, if available. Otherwise, proceed to next step.

Half-fill tub/bowl with water and pour steamed rice balls into it. 

With hands washed clean from the elbow down, mix by kneading gently and crushing balls between fingers until white, creamy mixture is obtained. Water may be added to get preferred consistency.

Add baobab juice, sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix. 

Courtesy of Mariam Sey

Add desiccated coconut and sliced bananas. Be careful not use these in excess as you do not want them to outshine the naanburu itself. 

Et voila! Your naanburu is ready to be served/shared/enjoyed! You may add milk to it while eating. Bon appetit 🙂

Courtesy of Rabia Ceesay

Linguere Tip

For better-tasting naanburu, allow me to share a small tip and then er, thank me later. Leave naanburu in fridge for a day or two. Stir and add milk. Enjoy the burst of heavenly flavors in your mouth. You’re welcome.

As I lie in anticipation of taunting pictures from the little sister, I might just prepare some ngalakh,  which is the Senegalese equivalent for naanburu. Prepared with millet, peanut butter, baobab and flavouring, it just might be a good enough solution to my naanburu cravings.  Linguere would like to wish all Christians a happy Easter. I pray that God acknowledges your 40 days of fasting and answers all prayers, inshallah. May the peace and tolerance that reigns between people of different faiths in The Gambia continue  and extend to the rest of the world. Always keep the reason for the season in mind. While you eat your naanburu, remember ”Lamou saff, kako niam moko xamm”!

~Beh benen aljuma~

I Care; Therefore I Act


    ” Lu waay di wuyoo da koy niru.”

English Translation: One lives up to the name he answers to!

In recent years, with the advent of social networks, we’ve seen a steady increase of people who care about different causes ranging from Poverty, Racial Discrimination, Child Trafficking, Sex Tourism etc. Everyday, we see posts about these issues and people pledging their unflinching support in the drive to put an end to certain practices. Sometimes, we can’t help noticing the angry tone with which these comments are made. Some of the issues tend to set fire to human blood and the owners just flare up and emotions take control. In that moment, one would think that with a click of their fingers, everything shall be resolved.

A few weeks ago, the  KONY 2012 wave swept through cyberspace like a tsunami. In all honesty, I can’t even say exactly what the video was about. I woke up, got on my Facebook and my news feed was completely taken over by posts and re-posts of the video. I only took time to read the description and scrolled past. That led me to even more KONY-related information. Friends were expressing dismay, horror, shock, anger etc at the issue. By the end of the day, the slogan #STOPKONY2012 was trending on Facebook and Twitter. Millions of people all over the world had a lot of comments to make. Somewhere between the concern and the fire to ‘get up and act now’, I could only notice the anger, anger and anger. Deep inside, I was sorry for whoever was going through the violence and ‘evil’ that was revealed in the video. I prayed that KONY gets caught and that justice would take its course.

Today, one rarely hears anything about KONY! A few days ago, a friend sent out a tweet saying ‘What happened to KONY? Y’all caught him already?’. It was a mere attempt at sarcasm but one cannot ignore the truth in those words. As the days went by, people eventually stopped sharing info about him. Everyone went back to their usual activity, the children of KONY 2012 pushed to a secondary place in our occupations. Sadly, this is not the first, and might not even be the last time we see things of this sort. Each day, we see people stand up and declare themselves ‘advocates for human rights’, ‘child activists’, ‘supporter of the anti-whatever movement’ etc. It is indeed great to see people take up interest in issues affecting our world today. It is inspiring to see that zeal and anxiety with which we make pledges to support one cause or the next. However, how many of us are true to our words? How many of us actually go the extra step to ACT? How many of us go past the stage of just saying ‘I shall act’? How many of us take time out to follow the progress of a cause we say we’re concerned about? How many of us look deep within and ask ourselves ‘Do I really care’?

This is just one facet which can be used to explain today’s proverb. Many of us like to think of ourselves as humanitarians, revolutionaries, advocates for justice and equal rights etc. We feel good when people stop by to commend us for our involvement in the ‘problem-solving team’. We respond to them with words like ‘I shall never stop until we put an end to this‘, ‘I’m in this till the very last stage’ and ‘I care a lot about this and I am gonna give it my all’. How much of our ‘all’ have you given? How much are we really willing to part with? Some might be thinking ‘ ..but it doesn’t only have to be financial’. Yes! Exactly my line of thought. Reaching into our pockets or signing off that cheque is not the only way in which we can help! Support comes in different forms and these concertedly help to create solutions. You care about ‘End Hunger in Somalia‘ but can’t give to the World Food Programme’s fund? Approach that child in your neighbourhood who has nothing to eat and feed him! You are against the discrimination of People with Disabilities but can’t join the International Organisations in their fight against this menace? Just across the cafeteria, a disabled woman is seated all alone; join her! These are just a few examples of how we can put our efforts where our words are.

Next time you stand up tall to say you support a cause, take the next step. Act, no matter how small you think the impact is going to be. They say ‘actions speak louder than words’. It is good to put up a Facebook status and declare our support for a cause, but it shall be even better if we tried to really put our energy into it. That action shall make changes and eventually, we shall all lean back with smiles on our faces, satisfied with our success in making a difference in the lives of millions!

~Beh benen aljuma~ 🙂

Of Serigns and Talibehs

”Lo doonul talibeem, mënulo doone serignam”

English Translation: ‘An aspiring master would have to pass through the career chain from apprentice to journeyman before he could be elected to become a master craftsman.’

I don’t have to dig deep into my (short) history to illustrate this proverb. Oh come on,don’t give me that smile. I already saw the sigh of relief you just let out. Lol

Anyway, I made my choice for today’s post while in school a few hours ago. I’d awoken to very strange weather and only God knows how I managed to drag myself to school as early as 9a.m. I had only one class today and it usually starts at 10:30am. However, I had a magazine for radio to work on and complete for my Professor before Monday. My group had already collected the sounds we needed, conducted interviews and everyone had their papers ready for recording. In school, much emphasis is placed on the technical side of production, which is actually interesting if you ignore the first pangs of frustration you get. I was tasked with doing a report on the 2nd round of Presidential elections in Senegal. I did a vox pop with Senegalese students resident in Morocco and wrote my paper based on my findings(obviously). As soon as I got to school, I started work on editing the files. The school’s equipment had recently suffered a breakdown and we had to adjust to using a new software, Adobe Audition, instead of the usual Dalet. This latter was much easier to use and I’d almost mastered the different techniques and even devised my own shortcuts to save time. Nevertheless, I listened and watched attentively as the technician explained the different steps before leaving. Nervously, I took control of the mouse and started listening, selecting, cutting, pasting, deleting etc. After five minutes, I couldn’t go further and called out to the technician. She explained everything a second time and after letting me practise in her presence, she left me to finish up. This time, everything went smoothly and I was able to edit all the sounds in about an hour. I’ve got to say a bit of  perseverance got me to the end.

After recording our scripts, we had to do the final montage, inserting all interviews. We were told that this step was the most difficult and we could not do it without the help of the technician. Seated between my Senegalese colleague and I, she set about weaving through the different screens. I just looked on, wondering when we would get to the ‘difficult’ part. A moment later, she sighed in frustration and confessed that she could not go any further. Politely, I asked if I could help and she willingly handed over the mouse. In less than 5 steps, I had the first interview inserted. She stared at me in amazement and exclaimed, ‘Bravo Mademoiselle’. I smiled and reclined on my seat, satisfied with my simple, yet highly appreciated contribution.

What exactly am I driving at? The importance and indispensability of learning, of course. I never would have solved the problem if I hadn’t shown a willingness to learn from the very first minute. In the end, we see the roles changing and I was on the other side of the table. Often, we come across clichés like ‘Learning is a gradual process’, ‘We learn new things everyday’ etc. This proverb, however, focuses more on the importance of being humble enough to recognise those superior to you in a certain domain. Only through humility can we accept to be taught by people who have more knowledge and expertise than us. The Talibeh has high hopes of becoming the Serign tomorrow. We may even add that the Serign hopes to see the Talibeh learn enough to be able to take over from him and pass the knowledge/skill on to the less learned/experienced. Man, they say, is curious by nature. Aren’t we thankful that curiosity only kills cats?

My dear Linguerites, I ask that you continue to seek knowledge. Be humble and open to new ideas. Your views may differ from other people’s, but once we learn to respect each other, we realise that we can always ‘agree to disagree’. To master a certain trade/skill/field, one needs to go through the channels of learning or apprenticeship. The duration may vary, but the results are almost always similar. Be that apprentice today who’ll live to become the Master in the future. I can (almost) guarantee that you shall end up rich in all senses of the word. Remember, the riches of the brain may be more valuable than riches of the flesh! After all ‘Learning is better than silver and gold’.

~Beh benen aljuma~ 🙂

Of Words And Their Power

Waxx soxu fetal la; su reccee, dabu ko wees.

English translation: Words are like bullets; once they escape, you can’t catch them again. 

Some time in 2008, a few months after graduating from high school, I did an internship at a certain radio station. I would call in everyday, but things were moving too slow for me. Some days, we’d just sit around, hooked to the few computers, surfing in and out of social networks. Other times, I’d be asked to write essays/articles, to determine my level. A few times, I got to record advertisements. These moments, I loved and hoped to have more of. Unfortunately, they weren’t forthcoming and I found myself losing interest. One day, I was in the studio with my friend, tired from sitting around all day. Our supervisors were busy recording adverts and cooking up jingles. One of them turned to me and said ‘Jama, you’re unusually quiet. What’s up?’ In my frustration, I didn’t even stop for a second to think before responding, ‘I’m bored and sick of it. I can’t wait to get out of here’.  The room suddenly got silent and everyone turned to look at me. My friend looked at me in surprise and exclaimed, ‘Jama, that’s not a nice thing to say’. I just shrugged it off. To me, it wasn’t that serious; to them, I was being rudely assertive (or maybe the other way round?). After getting home and stuffing my face with all the food I could find, I sat to think of what I’d said. I realised that I’d probably expressed my true feelings, but I could have done it in a more respectful way. I blamed it on my hunger, boredom and frustration. For many days after that, some of them gave me the cold shoulder and would reply to my questions with the most minimal of words. They eventually got over it, but I shall never forget the experience. I wished I could take back the words, coat them in caramel, then throw them out. I didn’t mean to hurt or offend anyone at the time, but I’ve learned to be considerate of people’s feelings when choosing my words.

Being careful with the words one uses is the principal value of this proverb.We all know the power of words, whether written or spoken. This proverb mainly seeks to guide people on their choice of words. Our ancestors and even the present-day elders place(d) great emphasis on respect, making sure the young ones learn to say the right things at the right time, to the right people. People may forget what you did for/to them, but words have a way of staying in our memories, sometimes influencing our attitudes towards others. The Wolof teach that every person is responsible for what he says. Acknowledging this proverb helps in guiding  people to be wary of what they say.

Instead of using words to hurt, use them to help. A few nice words can go a long way in changing your life. I’m a witness to this and I hope you all do not have to go through the awkwardness of it all. Be assertive, express your thoughts, stand by your opinion, but do it in the most respectful way possible. A kind word never broke anyone’s mouth! 🙂

~Beh benen aljuma~

Of The Xalam And Its Broken Strings


 Xalam demoon na bay neex, buum ya dog

Literal meaning: The sound of the xalam was so beautiful but the strings broke all of a sudden.

English equivalent: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

This could be put in perspective using the human being and his daily activities as an example. Sometimes we find ourselves involved in a particular activity and gradually see it unraveling successfully. All of a sudden, things start going downhill or come to an abrupt end. Hopes are shattered and some people tend to give up at this point. Others choose to try and try again, hoping to succeed some more. This proverb, I believe, tries to prepare us for disappointment. It is one thing to be optimistic but a completely different thing to be realistic. In everything we do, it’s best to weigh out the pros and the cons. This way, we can easily map out plans for the different challenges expected and of course, others that jump out from nowhere. Keep your eye out for success, but always reserve a tiny room for disappointment for it is bound to rear its ugly head at one point in your life!

*The Xalam is the traditional musical instrument shown in the picture above.