The people of Fuamah District turned out in their numbers on Saturday, January 19, 2019, in Haindii, the District headquarters, in Lower Bong County to witness and take part in an all day festival. The events which were organized to unify the people, saw the rekindling of good and old memories of the past three decades in their district. The cultural festival, the first of its kind in the district, brought together inhabitants of four of the five clans of the District to contest among themselves through canoe race, hands-off bucket race and traditional dance competition. Participants in the dance especially, most of whom are in their mid thirties to mid forties, walked away cheerfully with fat and attractive prizes.
At the opening of the program near the administrative square of the district, the people gathered, Listened keenly to Mr. Joseph P. Keller, one of the senior citizens of Dobli Clan, resident of Haindii and sponsor of the festival. Mr. Keller requested a minute in silence in honor of their ancestors, after which he gave few words of inspiration to encourage his people to take ownership of the festival.
“This is your program. It is not mine. I am just here as a citizen and over there is my father’s house and there I grew up. You know it,” Mr. Keller pointed out. “All I am trying to do is to bring us together, to know each other so we can work on different things to uplift Haindii.”
He told them that the activities were not different from what they do daily, except that those activities will be timed to determine who can do it most efficiently, to know the winner. “For instance, women towing buckets of water on their heads with babies on their backs, walk distance and the water doesn’t waste: what is the secret?” Mr. Keller asked.
He recalled that during his childhood days, he saw dancers in Haindii, such as the snake dancers, people behind the Yobai and Gbetu masked dancers. “So we will love to see whether you can still remember to do some of those dances,” He encouraged his people.
He offered prizes in three categories for the three events of canoe, bucket and dance race. Each of these events was challenged for first, second and third place winners. He offered L$10,000.00 for first place winner, L$7,500 for second place winner and L$2,500 for third place winner respectively, for the canoe and dance competitions. In the the bucket race, the first place winner walked away with L$2,000; the second place winner, L$1000; and the third place winner, L$500.
Speaking on behalf of Fuamah District Authorities, Mr. Saylai Korlubah said he was highly grateful to the sponsor and the organizing committee of the occasion. He welcomed all who assembled in Haindii to witness and to take part in the activities of the festival. He wished a successful conclusion of the occasion. He advised that complaint of anything that can spoil the play should be promptly forwarded to his office for immediate redress.
According to the chairman of the event organizing committee, Evangelist Lomini Goll, the participants in the canoe race were three teams, representing Dobli Island, Haindii Town, and Malomah, respectively. Each team had four members.
The Canoe Race
It was a twenty-minute walk from Haindii Town to Gahkpelle crossing point, where the canoe race took place. Spectators sat on reed benches built specifically for the competition, near the river bank, from where they watched and cheered on their teams in the race. Each team had to cross the river and return in the shortest possible time.
After a heated and challenging display of wit, strength and talent in canoe peddling, Team Haindii (containing four youthful males) took first place after crossing the 275-feet stretch across St. Paul River and returned in 2:56 minutes, amidst cheers of spectators near the river bank.
It was an exhilarating feat for the two remaining teams, Dobli Island and Malomah. Dobli Island (Team 2) won the second place in 3 minutes and 7 seconds, while Malomah fell to the third place in 3 minutes and 8 seconds, just one second slower than Team Dobli Island.
The Bucket Race
Everyone assembled at the oldest historic town square of Haindii for the bucket race. The square is situated few yards away from the Haindii crossing point, where the late Senator Boto Barclay of Bong County used his amphibious vehicle in the 1960s to cross the river from Haindii to Dobli Island. Many Fuamah residents remember seeing the vehicle being used for land transport with the ability to transform into a watercraft to cross the river.
The bucket race had Five female contestants, towing five buckets full of water, hands-free, moved swiftly across a sixty-yard stretch and back. Among the participants, Mercy Jensen of Haindii won first place, was followed by Tina Clinton from Coconut Farm, near Haindii, along Haindii-Bong Mines Highway. Jatu Bainda, from Jangbiama, took the third place.
The Traditional Dance at the Historic Square
The occasion was climaxed with a traditional dance competition under a critical scrutiny by judges to determine qualifiers to receive the attractive cash prizes that we put up for grabs. That was the challenge opened to both males and females of the district. The contestants, mainly females, in their mid-thirties and mid-forties, came from three out of the five clans of Fuamah District. Yarbayon Clan, Dobli Clan, and Zaweakomu Clan were the teams represented in the final showdown.
Taking first place in the dance competition was Yabayon Clan, led by Korto Pope; followed by Dobli Clan, led by Thelma Sona. The third place, of course, went to Zaweakomu Clan, led by Kaymah Boto.
The participants in the festival were overwhelmingly happy and gratified for the opportunity created by the sponsor of the occasion and the cooperation of the elders and the district authorities, for coming together in such an event that had not been seen for nearly three decades.
At the end of the competition Mr. Joseph P. Keller re-iterated that this program was not his but that of the spectators, the participants and the people of Fuamah District. He asked citizens to offer suggestions to improve the festival, which would be forwarded to the festival committee, consider in the the plans for next year’s edition of the festival. The committee, comprising Lomani Goll, Augustine Kollie and Etta Pope, are all residents of Haindii.
Mr. Keller envisioned more activities and promised to seek more sponsors to enable the Festival committee to stage the Fuamah Festival again in Haindii by the third Saturday in January 2020 and every year subsequently, to be named: “Fuamah Festival Day”.