August 3, 2007

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Some who are reading these entries may be interested in knowing a bit more about the Gëwél Tradition Project, so that is what today’s entry will discuss. The Gëwél Tradition Project was developed to research, document and support the gëwél tradition historivcally and presently. The three sections of the project intertwine with one another in much the same way as oration, music and dance do in the gëwél tradition.

The first two sections, research and documentation, are focused on learning about the many facets of the g ëwél tradition, both historically and presently and documenting it in in written and audio/visual formats. The third section of the project, support of the gëwél tradition, is one of the most significant parts of the project, and the section that gives the real shape to it.

If you have visited the Sing Sing Juniors website you know that the group was created in 2004 by Moustapha Faye, Doudou Faye and Isma Aw. All three of these men came into their adulthood at the end of the twentieth century. They formed this group to provide the next generation who are now coming of age in the opening years of the twenty-first century, a vehicle for carrying this tradition on in a new way. This is a major undertaking.

With globalization and the increasing use of technology, traditional skills and art forms all over the world are being challenged. This is true for the gëwél tradition as well. The traditional methods of making a living have changed, while the ecomomic needs are increasing. Many young gëwéls are being enticed to go to Europe, the United States, and other countries to try to make a living as musicians and dancers. This not only removes them from their homes and communities, but it also fractures a tradition that contains much more than music and dance. The Gëwél Tradition Project is trying to provide an alternative to those limited and often destructive options. However, it should be made clear that this is not preservation work. The project is not trying to keep young folks tied to a past that no longer exists.

Sing Sing Juniors Sabar Drum and Dance Ensemble is one of the most visible examples of the support segment. While a central part of this project is focused on the performance art traditions, it also recognizes that the young generation of gëwéls have dreams and aspirations as all young people do. They also have a wide range of skills and interests, some of which are traditional gëwél activities and some which are not.

Presently we are developing a history writing project and exploring ways to support those interested in developing business. But the project also trying to supports the educational aspirations of the young folks from elementary school through university, InchAlla.

The Gëwél Tradition Project supports these aspirations so that the young gëwéls will have options other than removing themselves from the core of their traditions. Since these young folks are the ones who will decide how to carry the tradition that they have inherited into the future, today I am posting some pictures of some of their pictures.


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