“Learning the N'ko script enables me to read and write in my mother tongue,” exclaimed Ahmad M. Cęęsay (ߊߤߑߡߊߘ ߛߌ߬ߛߋ߫), a Mandinka speaker in Sukuta Nema, Western Division, The Gambia. “This has been our dream long before I came to know about the existence of the N'ko script that was invented by Professor Sulaymani Kante of Guinea Conakry,” the poultry farmer continued.
Kante (1922 – November 23, 1987) is best known as the inventor of the N'ko alphabet for the Manding family of languages. There are many dialects of Manding. The best-known are: Bambara, the most widely spoken language in Mali; Mandinka, the main language of The Gambia; Maninka, or Malinké, a major language of Guinea and Mali; and Jula, a trade language of the northern Ivory Coast and western Burkina Faso.
“Speak your native language to your children or watch it die within the next 20 years. Looking down on your relatives who speak your native tongue because you speak perfect English is stupid. It is like being proud of borrowed clothes.”
Quranic students, according to Cultures of West Africa, often start their recitations with the word N'ko. This was also a reference to a historic speech that Sundiata Keita, Mali’s Emperor, delivered to his army in 1236, when he said: “I am speaking to you, valiant men, to all those who say N'ko, and those who don’t.” The phrase "N'ko" means "I say" in all Manding languages.
“Some of our terms and pronunciation defer but we generally understand one another,” explained Ceesay, founder and manager at Fansoto Farm. Ceesay produces chickens, eggs, and papaya fruits in a village south of Banjul, the capitol city of The Gambia, a country where more than 30 percent of the people identify as Mandinka and many more speak the language.
The professor created N'ko in 1949 after five years of experimentation with various writing systems. He acted in response to beliefs that Africans were a "cultureless people," - - a belief that prompted other Africans around the world to invent an African response to White supremacy including American Carter G. Woodson, Haitian Joseph Anténor Firmin, and Canadian Rosemary Sadlier.