Gambia – A Village Kumpo Dance

This Kumpo dance was held in the village of Kanuma, Gambia and was held in celebration of the “Light Up the Village Project” which sponsored by The Gambia Experience.

A Kumpo is a mythical figure of the Jola people of Gambia and Senegal. A ‘Kumpo’ is the centre of the action at a village celebration.

Kumpo Dance lady

He is dressed in palm leaves and has a stick coming out of the top of his head and he dances! Almost looking like a haystack.

This actually represents a sweeping broom. The Kumpo sweeps away all the evil spirits and allows things to continue as normal. Work and play.

BaldHiker Retreats
gambian clapping to kumpo dance

Whilst he is dancing the Kumpo speaks in a language nobody understands. a private language. An interpreter speaks to all for him. He actually dances for hours and hours!

Nobody is allowed to look within the palm leaves, this is taboo and sacrilege. By tradition the Kumpo is a ghost.

At the climax of the dancing the Kumpo spins around and around to put out a fire.

Gambia - A Village Kumpo Dance drums and dancing

There are actually 3 mythical figures of the Jola people. The Kumpo, Samay and Niasse.

It is the Samay that invites the whole community to attend the dancing festivities. He has 1 arm, 2 horns on his head and a long stick.

The Niasse is normal as in 2 arms and no horns but dances with 2 sticks.

colourful Kumpo Dance

It is etiquette for all to attend. Not only is it anti-social behaviour to not attend but here, nobody has the right to be lonely.

really dancing

Take a look at this image and lady above. There is not much more I can say about this one – the video below says it all – my favourite is the lady in the red trousers – what a great dancer!

Gambia - A Village baby
dancing women

The people of the village get involved completely. And they loved having us there to enjoy the spectacle and dancing with them.

The colours, the drum beat, the music, singing and dancing was an experience I shall never forget.

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  1. That would be an amazing experience. One that I’m sure you could over and over again. Beautiful photographs of the dance.

  2. Kate Willis says:

    ‘We’ loved looking at these Tom – wonderful pictures and video 🙂 Kate

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