Sierra Leone has many ethnic groups living within its borders, and everyone offers their own perspective on some common ubiquitous art forms. Carving is a common style of art found here, and most commonly found using ivory, stone, or wood.
There are certain regional styles, such as use of color, patterns, or technique. Common wood-carved pieces include masks and figurines used for ceremonial or spiritual purposes. Stone carvings were a tradition of the Temne people; many were lost and/or destroyed by the Mende people when they took over the Temne lands. (Nice job, guys.)
In light of Ramadan, there were quite a few lantern contests where people would make wooden lanterns and float them down the river. Many of them were designed to look like landmarks, people, animals, or supernatural beings. Although it pretty much ended when the civil war broke out, there are some people who have tried to bring back the tradition.
When many countries gain their independence (or starting the uprisings leading up to it), there is usually a surge in a patriotic or national art movement. However, Sierra Leone didn’t really go through that during the 1950s and 1960s when they gained their independence. Their movement came during the civil war of the 1990s when youth artists began to paint national and patriotic themes and leaders during that time.
Some of the more well known artists include Cam Coker, Louise Metzger, Alusine Bangura, Mudiama Kammoh, Tarawali Tarazadio, Kwame Haleston, and Alphonso Lisk-Carew.
Literature is typically written in English. There was quite a thriving literary scene before the civil war took place, which pretty much went underground or stopped completely. Except perhaps for some journalistic works, or works from those who fled the country and wrote from abroad. As the country healed from nearly a decade of turmoil, literature and publications have been slow to pick up. But it has picked up, as people wrote about their country and their experiences as a way to heal themselves. Civil War literature and children’s literature have both increased in readership and publication since the end of the war through the publishing efforts and support by organizations like PEN International.
Some of the main authors from Sierra Leone include Eustace Palmer (professor, author, literary critic), Wilfred “Freddy Will” Kanu Jr (author, hip-hop recording artist), Karamoh Kabba (novelist), Adelaide Casely Hayford (feminist, public speaker, started a girls school, short story author), Gladys Casely Hayford (poet, playwright, musician, teacher, daughter of Adalaide Casely Hayford), Syl Cheney-Coker (poet, novelist, journalist, editor), Winston Forde (novelist, playwright), Elvis Gbanabom Hallowell (poet, storyteller), Ambrose Massaquoi (poet, short stories), Lucilda Hunter (novelist, librarian), Shiekh Umarr Kamarah (poet, linguist, professor), and Dr Siaka Kroma (novelist, professor).
Up next: music and dance