Briefing about the Point-sud workshop ‘Around Gambana’ (1 December 2020)

On December 1st 2020, Lotte Pelckmans, CO-investigator in the SLAFMIG project, organized, together with anthropologist Paolo Gaibazzi, a full day workshop on the anti-slavery movement Gambana. The title of the workshop was Around Gambana: perspectives on an anti-slavery movement, and it was a mixed format with both onlline zoom participation, but also some offline participation from presenters physically meeting at the premises of Point Sud (Centre for Research on Local Knowledge) in Bamako, Mali.

More specifically, the topic of the workshop was about how and why the “anti-slavery movement” called Gambana or Ganbanaaxu, which means “equality” in Soninke, has been gaining momentum in West Africa since late 2017. The movement demands the equality and dignity of people classified as descendants of slaves (komou) vis-à-vis people of free descent, especially the dominant elite (horoun). Gambana’s mobilisation was unprecedented in its scale and escalation in a region where issues of (post-)slavery are often overlooked in public discourse. The diasporic nodes of Soninke migrants in Europe and around the world have played a key role in the origin and evolution of the movement. Their anti-slavery and pro-equality mobilisation have provoked strong reactions and counter-mobilisations. Violent conflicts and internal displacement have taken place in the Kayes region of Mali and in several other Soninke regions in the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Mauritania.

The workshop brought together mainly journalists, experts, bloggers, activists and members of civil society from west Africa concerned with developments related to Gambana. The aim was to provide an overview of the origins, objectives and activities of the movement in the historical, socio-cultural and diasporic context of the regional post-slavery era. We also documented the initiatives and interventions that have emerged in response to the conflicts and their consequences triggered by the (anti-)slavery mobilisation.

This workshop was a prelude to a forthcoming series of events under the title of  “Mobility,  Mobilisation and displacement in Post-Slavery West Africa” (2021), funded by the Goethe-University of Frankfurt am Main and the German Research Foundation (DFG). The next conference will take place in winter 2021, more precisely between 29nov and 5dec 2021.

For a full list of intervenors and speakers, see French version here.


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