Daily life and social customs
The Gambia has long been home to several different ethnic groups who have maintained their individual cultural traditions; as such, the country has a rich heritage. In the past, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, leatherworkers, weavers, textile dyers, and other artisans were found in all of the region’s societies. Weavers and textile dyers still make distinctive cloth throughout the country The Gambia is noted for its indigo-dyed cloth in particular.
The Gambia is the smallest country in the African continent, though it surely does not lack any slender or rich history. Gambia is a Muslim country with the percentage said to be 70% Muslim 30% Christian.

Traditional Clothing of Gambia
Traditional clothing for women in the Gambia consits of a headdress called a musorr ot Tiko and a grandmuba which are usually in brightly coloured and patterned cloth.

A modest dress code is advised in all public places and you should preferably at least wear a sarong or other wrap that comes down to your knees and cover your top half at least up to the elbows though there is no need to cover you head. In the hotels’ resorts and beaches you can wear a bikini as this is acceptable but not out and about in public.

The traditional kind of clothing for Gambian women and men tends to be long and free flowing clothes. For women they tend to wear clothes down to their feet as well as up to their wrists. This is called a grandmuba which comes with an under garment called a malan which is a couple of metres of cloth which is wrapped around the waist as an underskirt.

Such traditional apparel tends to come in a multitude of vivid
colours, waxes and designs. The essential point is that such clothing should cover most parts of your body except for the hands and feet. Ladies should cover their heads with a headdress called a musorr or Tiko.

When out in public, women are more often seen in traditional garb (blouse and skirt from often brightly coloured fabric, plus head wraps) than in Western wear, though many businesswomen will wear Western-style dresses with an African flare. As with men, young women and girls are seen in American-style clothing more often than the older ladies do. For special occasions, such as weddings or naming ceremonies, both men and women usually abandon the plain cotton and opt for African clothing made from beautifully coloured and embroidered fabric, sometimes interwoven with strands of glimmering threads.

Keeping in line with the Muslim faith many men tend to wear the Kaftan (pronounced Haftan) which is worn in a very similar way to the grandmuba. It is a full-dress, ankle-length, long-sleeve clothing which is also known as the fataro, jalabe or shabado. A variation of this is the 3 piece suit called nyeti abdu which comes with trousers called a chaya or the waramba. Such dress for men is very often embroidered in elaborate gold coloured thread on the chest area and sometimes the end of the sleeves and back area. This male attire is topped off with a skull cap which is also usually embroidered in elaborate designs along the rim.

Weaving of Gambian
the Gambian is a family heritage and tradition. He is using 7threads in the photos but he can make it softer by using less threads in the ‘dadugal’ – this is a Fola word which means ‘small boat’.

the cotton yarn locally from The Gambia as his seller no longer gets it anymore making it quite difficult to source it in The Gambia at present. The main source has been Senegal for the cotton which is from a Senegalese cotton farm and is also processed in a factory in Senegal.

cloth and garments made from bogolan and bark cloth from Mali sold at the crafts market. Bogolan manufacturing is a long, painstaking process and one that is quite laborious. It is known to have begun in the Beledougou Bamana which is north of Bamako and was seen as a type of peasants cloth but now has been transformed into a perfect symbol of national identity in the West Africa country of Mali.

This is not only a great art form but a labour intensive craft in the aspect that it can take 3hours of labour to make 1m30 piece.

Gambian life as it ranges from the growing of cotton to the colours and patterns and their social significance to the methods of conserving fabric. In the Senegambia region weaving is a man’s job but the family all pay a part in the preparation of the cloth. This woven cloth is important and very valuable so is looked after due to this value. In the past families had their own weavers who made cloth for the whole family for special events such as weddings, etc.


This may take two weeks to make something when they say they can do it in 2 days.

The sequin piece shown is an amazing creation – in my eyes – piece of art by Alagie who will originally draw the design and even make one up, then a group of women he has working for him will then repeat the design and sew the garment together. As expected the beads are sourced from China or India or many of the suppliers will go to Dubai and bring the beads back. These such large embroidered pieces are made for events like Eid or naming ceremonies etc. In my opinion it would be great for wedding dresses.

the batik factory in Serakunda in the region of Dippakunda and community of batikers working together in the outdoor factory.

the batik dyes are from the USA. According to research at Tanje Museum the origin of dyes were first obtained from the soot that accumulates on clay or metal pots used for cooking food. The soot was scraped off, mixed with water and the solution used to dye clothes. It s this process that later developed into the present techniques of dye making. As a lovely of crafts and having visited batik printers previously and made my own wax print batik fabric.

Secondhand Clothing
Secondhand clothing markets is called “fookijaay,” which is the Wolof word for “thrift market,” There is a huge market in Serakunda. It highlights how the supply now far outstrips demand and according to the Office of the U.S Trade Representative used clothing was the 5th largest import to Senegal (Gambia’s neighbouring country) from the U.S. in 2009, clocking in at $7 million.

Article By Harshika sapra


Rajni Yadav
Author: Rajni Yadav