By Sal Taal , President Gambia Bar Association
My tribute to Alhagi Baa Trawally
Inna Lillahi Wa inna Lillahi Raji’oon
“every old man that dies, it’s a library that burns” Amadou Hampate Bah
Another tree has fallen. I did not know Uncle Baa Trawally very well but heard his name mentioned by my late father ( Ebou Momar Taal of blesseth memory ) on countless occasions with fondness and admiration. Sometime in the summer of 2019, I was opportune and privileged to meet Uncle Baa Trawally for the first time and regrettably the last time. I received a phone call from Uncle Baa Trawally expressing his condolences and inviting me to his home to discuss matters relating to my late father. He emphasized that I do my uttermost to honor his invitation. I was really surprised and curious to say the least ; I had no clue or expectations of what to expect but already endeared to him from his warmth and courteous disposition on the phone. He meticulously and patiently directed me to his house in Latrikunda over the phone as I was having difficulty finding my way ( I am horrible with directions) . Upon arrival he left instructions that I go straight to his bedroom after the exchange of pleasantries with one of his relatives who received me. He asked me to sit close to him and held my hand whilst expressing his condolences following my father’s passing. He was very warm and I was teary eyed as I felt something special and profound inside me.
What followed was one of the most profound and impactful discourse/chat I have ever had in my life . The discourse was centered around his life experiences, politics and his relationship with my father which started at Muhamedan Primary School in the late forties. Actually, it was a lecture, I was captivated and in awe not only by the substance of his narration but the beauty of his language, his pedigree and comportment. I could discern his radical streak and enlightened mind.
Uncle Baa took me through a three hour marathon session despite his age and ailing condition. I knew my father had great respect and admiration for Baa who he regarded as an intellectual heavy weight but I never realized they had a very special connection. Through Uncle Baa, I learnt that they were classmates at Mohammedan school and were the first sons of Muslims to sit the standard 11 plus exam in The Gambia at time access to education was restricted to the privileged few. He narrated that my late dad joined their 11 plus class as the youngest pupil and as the prefect of the class, he took up the responsibility of looking after him. He was my dad’s first friend at Mohammedan school and took him under his arm. He gave me the historical genesis and rationale of the grade 11 plus exam which was introduced by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee to democratize access to education to lesser privileged members of society both in the UK and in the colonies. He reminded me of my dad’s humble background and the importance of having a good education.He proudly celebrated his grade 11 plus classmates and how they proceeded to further their education and subsequently serve their country in public service with distinction.
Baa took me through a journey that was very emotional and illuminating. From his relationship with my Dad, he went on explain the role he played in helping my late Uncle Dodou Taal defeat the late Ebrahim Garba Jahumpa in 1977. Uncle Baa despite his age was very lucid, eloquent and coherent. He spoke beautifully with diction and decorum.The three hours I spent with Baa was a master class and left an indelible mark in me. I am eternally grateful to this intellectual giant who was so generous with his knowledge and wisdom. I hope a compendium of his writings will be preserved and published in due course.
Uncle Baa was very fond of my family, particularly my dad and published an anthology of tributes in local papers in his memory. As a family, we are eternally grateful. We extend our profound condolence to Uncle Baa’s family through Jamil Trawally.
Gambia has lost an icon and a library. Baa Trawally is an icon and needs to be celebrated.
“A life that touches others goes on forever “ anonymous
May his blesseth soul Rest In Peace.