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#Headline Stories

The Man Who Cracked The Kunta Kinteh Code: Enter Kebba Kanyi Fofana

By Dembo Fatty

Many Gambians believe that the story of or the name of Kunta Kinteh was advanced by Alex Hayley in his book titled Roots.

What was never mainstream was and still is, is the fact that the piecing together of the story that would create a young Nuiminka man enslaved and sold to slave traders was the work of an unknown person called Kebba Kanyi Fofana of Juffereh. Without him, the story of Kunta Kinteh would not have gathered traction.

By now, Gambians should have beard of his name. Not even sure if he was adequately rewarded.

As to whether the story is fiction or fact, the jury is out but Hayley,  it appears made an excellent attempt in creating a genealogy that found its way to Juffreh.

Fofana helped him achieve this story.

Some of my followers may have read my series on the Kinteh and in that story, the family patriarch was one Janneh Kinteh from Mauritania.  However,  some family members hold the believe that their patriarch was one kunta kinteh from Mauritania.

Whichever version you believe,  the convergence is that their patriarch was from Mauritania where the name Kunta  is a bit popular.

The problem with the version i wrote about,  Janneh kinteh was invited by Jerreh Ba Marong,  king of Baddibu to do religious work for him. We do know that Jerreh Ba Marong was king around 1860 and was in fact killed at the orders of Maba Jahou.  Parts of his dismembered hands are still inside two drums in Baddibu I am not keen to talk about.

1860 dwarfs the birth of this kunta which was in 1750 and died in 1822. But we must not be quick to dismiss the thesis because the same name gets repeated in many African families especially when the name was initially that of a patriarch or someone quite influential or of fame.

Kunta kinteh of 1750 may have been named after an earlier kunta kinteh who migrated from Mauritania but the story that the patriach was someone who was invited to “Gambia ” by Jerreh Ba Marong,  cannot be the ancestor of this kunta kinteh in Roots because that kunta kinteh preceded Jerreh Ba Marong  of Baddibu Indea by at least 110 years

Fofana was not a griot and perhaps that may account for why his name never made the headlines especially in the Gambia.  Alex Hayley was a poster son with fame and support behind him especially a community looking for a success story of triumph over slavery.  That yearning for a connection to the motherland was a passage many an African American was and still is willing to cross.

Fofana,  it appears told Hayley about the story of Kunta Kinteh captured and sold into slavery.

Kunta Kinteh was and is a Gambian story by a Gambian and not Hayley.

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