Gambia Photo Album

Fanal - A Holiday Tradition
Bundung Ka Kunda, 1991

Each year during the week between Christmas and New Years, dozens of "Fanals" or paper boats are paraded around the streets of the urban areas and larger towns. The boats are intricately constructed out of paper and bambo sticks. At night time, groups of children place candles inside the paper boats for illumination and carry them from compound to compound, beating drums, sticks and singing songs. They are quite beautiful and can range from 4 to over 20 feet long.

At each compound, the procession stops and asks the compound head for a donation. On New Years Day, the final is carried to the home of the "sponsor", or the individual that contributed the money that went into the construction of the fanal. The sponsor will usually display the fanal in a prominent place in the compound, such as the roof, where it will remain for many months until it falls apart due to exposure to the weather. The money collected from the week's processions is usually used for a party (disco) or picnic on the beach.

No one seems to know the origin of the fanals. Recently, some local government councils have started competitions for the best fanal. This has led to increased competition to make bigger and more intricate fanals each year.

submitted by Andy Lyons

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