Credits: Janet Badjan-Young



Janet Badjan-Young is a Gambian playwright and director of the Ebunjan theatre in the Gambian capital Banjul. The Gambia has one of the highest migration rates in sub-Saharan Africa. The current government is trying to tackle the causes, but many young people still see Europe as a ‘Babylon’ instead of working to better their own country, thinks Badjan-Young, who recently won an award for her play tackling the dangers of migration.

“I’m happy that I have something to do with the theater, otherwise I’m sure I would be in jail,” roars Janet Badjan-Young, laughing gleefully. “I have too much energy, I fight with everyone, so I have to put that into something productive.”

It is hard to imagine this wise and venerable playwright in jail, but even across a phone line from The Gambia, Badjan-Young transmits enough energy to confirm she is a force of nature. She laughs long and generously during the interview. In between the merriment though, she manages to convey the wisdom of someone who is “nearly 82”, a seasoned broadcaster and former UN employee, who today writes about big social themes in her plays. From slavery to migration, she is experienced at tackling the things that matter, and should matter, to her fellow Gambians.

As if that wasn’t enough, Badjan-Young is the director of her own theatre in Banjul, (Ebujan theatre) and is planning to turn her latest play, “Backway-The desperate route to Babylon” into a radio play, “to reach even more people via listening groups,” she explains.


This is what these guys don’t realize, you have to have some skills before you go and live abroad.

Badjan-Young’s play centers on a couple of young men who dream of getting to Europe or “Babylon” via the “Backway”, meaning via irregular routes. One character named “Batch” is described as “a Wollof youth, 23-years-old. Tall and ungainly…He dropped out of school at the age of 16.” Another, “Dembo” is “a Mandinka youth, about 24-years-old. Short, muscular, a talented footballer. He left his village Dampha Kunda to live in greater Banjul.” Lastly, there is “Action Pac.” “A Sarahule youth, 19-years-old, he behaves older. He is loud and uncouth.”

Dembo is convinced that if he can only get to Germany, he can join a football team and become rich. Action Pac thinks the way to money is via sex or marriage to an older British woman and Batch thinks that the only way to money is via Europe or Babylon.


Read more: InfoMigrants