Tuesday, May 28, 2024

‘Vimto Circle’: ‘Girl Power’ Before it Became a Trend

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Long before the advent of the term “Girl Power,” a group of young girls practised this in The Gambia and lived by its dictates till death parted them.

My mother and her group of friends who were later known as the “Vimto Circle” nurtured a bond that started in their kindergarten days. They maintained this friendship until the very end. The name came about because they were few Christian-Aku women who didn’t drink alcohol except in exceptional circumstances where, socially, they would sip a glass or two. Their favourite drink was Vimto and thus they were dubbed the “Vimto Circle”.

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These women supported themselves morally, emotionally, financially and spiritually throughout their journey on this earth. They were present in each other’s joyful and glorious days and so were they present in times of pain, sadness and grief. From weddings to birthdays, naming ceremonies to graduation parties and from anniversaries to funerals they stood by each other solidly.

Within that circle they mostly became godparents to each other’s children and their children grew up as siblings.

The last of the Circle died when she was over 90 years of age in the person of Late Aunty Erica Richards Owhutu and the first of the Circle to transition was the Late Aunty Sarian Colley the wife of Uncle William Hydara-Colley.

It was well-known knowledge in Banjul of yesteryears that these women never fought each other, slandered or tarnished each other. There were no instances of snatching each other’s boyfriends or husbands. They kept the circle for life and only death severed this bond.

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These women did not have it all smoothly, but they supported each other through thick and thin. From about 3 years old they connected, and it was the most beautiful bond to behold. They shared seamlessly each other’s secrets, but not once did it go past that circle. To date, I marvel at how they achieved this feat.

Growing up, they would tell us of how they did “gungay buki” in Bathurst now Banjul until their parents would come out chasing after them to go to bed.

They would tell us how they were the best of dancers in town in those days in BJL and their contemporary men folks would be begging for months to have them accompany them to parties and social functions. Yes, they never stopped talking about how they won all the dance competitions at the Banjul Reform Club.

My mother especially would boast about how good a dancer she was and then the others would join in to give anecdotes of just how colourful their lives were.

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About 25-odd years ago my mother and some of her friends notably Aunty Mary B. Jallow and Aunty Mina Sarr taught me and my friends John Dalliah and Fredrick Chikeh Forster the dance steps and moves of “Foxtrot, Pachanga, Rock and Roll and Twist. We were getting prepped for a Rotary Club High School dance competition, and it was not surprising that between myself and my friends, we won all the dance categories. Oh, what a sight it was to behold my mother and her friends teaching us those dance moves in the heart of our living room in New Street, Banjul.

These women knew the strength of togetherness and recognised what the cultural and social movement that emphasized women- empowerment, Independence and strength of women and girls coming together was all about long before “Girl Power” became a trend.

They encouraged each other to be assertive and stood by each other to ensure that each one of them pursued their goals in life to make them the phenomenal and powerhouse they were.

Over 80 years of the unrivalled and unmatched bond of friendship that nothing or anything could sever except death.

They are thus, finally reunited to part no more.

Vimto Circle!

OLGA LERINA MAMJOJO ROBERTS, MARY BEATRICE JALLOW, WILHEMINA CECILIA SARR, OLIVE LEONORA WRIGHT, ERICA RICHARDS OWHUTU, PRISCILLA LITTLE FAYE-ROBERTS AND SARIAN HYDARA-COLLEY. May your beautiful souls rest in perfect and eternal peace.

Your legacy lives on.

M R R.

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