Remembering Ebou Waggeh
By Ebrima Baldeh
Perhaps, Gambia’s kora maestro Jaliba Kuyateh was right when in he said; when someone dies, people will be compelled to talk about you, your work and what you left behind. If this parable holds any meaning then The Gambia will miss Ebou Waggeh; the fledgling film industry and the pet media projects he pioneered in his last days will undoutedly miss the doyen. As I write this piece, I feel an emotional meltdown about a man who was so passionate about cinematography and his resolve to fix things and put the Gambia on a firm footing. Inspired by the legendary filmmaker, often referred to as father of African cinema, Sembene Ousmane, Ebou Waggeh transposed his artistic exploits from being an on-the-field newspaper reporter, Tv journalist and editor to Sembene’s realism.
Early newspaper experience
In May, I put together a highly spirited zoom panel comprising Ebou Waggeh, Momodou Sabally, Hassoum Ceesay and Dr. Cherno Omar Barry, we delved into the legacy of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Out of the more than hour long panel, two things are still etch in my mind; Hassoum Ceesay disclosed that Ebou Waggeh was his editor at the defunct New Citizen newspaper, and that former President of Senegal Abdou Diouf revealed in his mémoire that he trusted Jammeh more than Jawara.
Sadly, Waggeh is going down in his grave for not fullfilling his ambition to do a documentary on the legacy of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. At the end of the zoom seminar, I began to ruminate more on the issues that were not pointers during the seminar than the things we discussed namely Ebou Waggeh’s foray into newsaper journalism under the tutelage of Baboucarr Gaye of blessed memory. And the fact that very little is known or written about Waggeh’s newspaper experience, clearly shows an enviable character in him: an unassuming individual. What was also substantive, especially to myself and Momodou Sabally, Hassoum Ceesay and Ebou Waggeh’s take on Sanjally Bojang and how he would have being the PPP leader if he was literate in the conventional system. Ebou Waggeh’s long and illustrious career in the media gave him the fodder to focus, zoom and tilt his lens on our society.
In January 2005, the tipping point for me as I changed gears from being a peanut-eating newspaper reporter, to what was apparently the allure of Tv, I recalibratedmyself psychologically to the rigors of my new job. By then, the buzz on Tv was the likes of Ebou Waggehtoe-to-toe with Kebba Dibba on special reports and documentaries. And on the hot 8pm news desk, Bora Mboge ( who doubles as DG and news reader per excellence) squared off with the likes of Ardy Fatty & Lamin Manga; the sports desk, Essa Jallow was the unbeatable candidate. Among the list of female news readers, Fatu Camara, Fatou Sanneh & Neneh Macdoul Gaye were dazzling to watch. On others programs, Fatou Touray, Rahilu Bah, Sainabou Jallow, Ansumana Drammeh also injected so much zest into the Goudi Samedi & the breakfast show. Abdou Touray made an A in directing and editing.
However, by the time, I was hired at GRTS, a tsunami had swept the Tv, some of the stars left, which prompted a swift rebuttal from then DG Tombong Saidy on Weekend Observer’s sensational headline: Mass resignations at GRTS. I decided to shift my attention to the library where files tapes were kept; I stumbled on a special report on the transition fromOAU to AU in June 2002 by Ebou Waggeh. The detailed report highlighted the major speeches delivered in Durban, South Africa and on the sidelines of the event, Waggeh interviewed Louis Farakhan of the Nation of Islam, Nigeria’s Yabuku Gawon, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda among other influential guests. I fell in love with the way the report was compiled and structured and began to allign myself more with the reporters and editors that will help me settle down at GRTS.
I watched and followed Ebou Waggeh with keen interest; the fact that he left, many people thought once you are off the national broadcaster’s radar you tend to lose your shine; that was not for Waggeh, he set up the Wax media production company with his sons. He teamed up with a number of private and public institutions to produce corporate documentaries; heproduced a moving tribute on the legacy of Abdou Draman Touray of Pristine consulting following his demise in 2007. A sequence of recent events based on his Facebook postings kept him highly energized; did he smell his death? On September 28th, he announced that the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority ( NAQAA) has issued him trainer license for his pet photography and filming project. The overall drive was to kickstart Wax film and Tv training institute which was originally scheduled to commence in November. Before this, Waggeh was apparentlyposting scenic pictures of his native city, Banjul, and the pristine beaches in and around Senegambia. Just like his mentor, Sembene Ousmane, Ebou Waggeh’s voracious appetite for the waves of the sea was unmatched. Great men and women would like to withdraw sometimes to cooler places to recharge the tank. Was this another way of saying goodbye? Now that he’s gone, we must do whatever it takes to help Pa Abdou Waggeh carry on the burden of actualizing his father’s dream.
Adieu friend, colleague and father, till we meet by the grace of Allah.