Topic: CultureTraditions

Last updated: May 2, 2019

Sierra Leone is a small yet beautiful and bountiful country found in Western Africa bordered by Guinea, Liberia, and the Atlantic Ocean. The current capital is Freetown. It was originally founded in 1462 by a Portuguese explorer named Pedro da Cintra. He came across the mountains while sailing and called them the “Serra Lyoa” meaning “Lion Mountains”(Sierra Leone: Countries and Their Cultures). Sierra Leone can be broken into four distinct physical regions.

The coastal swamp, the Sierra Leone Peninsula which is where Freetown is located, the interior plains, and the interior plateau and mountain region (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018) The climate of Sierra Leone is best described as tropical with an alteration of rainy and dry seasons. From July to September is the country’s wettest time period and it rains almost daily. Although during the dry season, November to April, that is when a hot dry wind blows in from the Sahara. Growing up in Sierra Leone it is not uncommon for children to learn up to four languages. Those of which include their ethnic groups, neighboring groups, English, and Krio. Krio is the most common language spoken in Sierra Leone as it is spoken by 97% of the people. Krio is an english based creole language.

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It was thought that Krio was first spoken by freed slaves of many different African descents to communicate with one another. There are four million people who speak Krio but for only 10% of them is Krio their first language. Sierra Leone is made up of many different cultures, religions, and races. There is 15-20 different ethnic groups that can be found. A majority, 60%, of Sierra Leoneans are identified as Muslim, 10% are Christian, and 30% are “indigenous believers” (Sierra Leone: Countries and Their Cultures).

A nickname for Sierra Leone is “the little jewel”. This goes well with how successful a diamond producing country Sierra Leone is. It is one of the top 10 diamond producing nations in the world. On February 14, 1972 the “star of Sierra Leone” was found, which was the world’s third-largest gem quality diamond. Other than diamonds, Sierra Leone produces other natural treasures such as gold, bauxite, and rutile. Food is a big part of Sierra Leonean culture, just as it is with various other countries.

In Sierra Leone they consider rice their main food as it is eaten at virtually every meal. There is a common saying in Sierra Leone, “If I haven’t eaten rice today, I haven’t eaten.” (Sierra Leone: Countries and Their Cultures).

Rice that is prepared in various different ways is what is considered “real food” while everything else, such as fruits seafood and potatoes, are considered snacks. For many traditions such as weddings, funerals, and services a very large platter is served to each guest and is continuously served until they are full. Often times there will also be a plate left out in honor of the ancestors. The history of Sierra Leone starts with its founding in 1462, but it is more well known as a resettlement site for freed slaves that came from England and the Americas.

This is said to be where the origin of the capital name Freetown came from. In 1808 Sierra Leone was ruled by a colonial governor as a British crown colony. Then in 1898 the “Hut Tax Rebellion” occurred. Sierra Leone again gained freedom against British rule on April 27, 1961 when Sierra Leone became an independent sovereign state. Almost exactly 10 years later Sierra Leone became a republic on April 19, 1971. From the years 1991-2002 Sierra Leone also encountered internal country issues and there was a civil war that lasted 11 years and took the lives of 50,000 people. While there was a lot that occured in the history of Sierra Leone there is just as many recent events. One of the most recent events that had a big impact on Sierra Leone as a country is the devastating flood and mudslide that began on August 15, 2017.

This flood killed more than 400 people in Freetown and there was an estimated 3,000 people that were left homeless. Another recent tragedy that occurred in Sierra Leone within the last 10 years was the Ebola epidemic. It was common knowledge to most people that Africa had one of the largest grossing outbreaks of Ebola in 2014, this including Sierra Leone. Some examples of the thirteen cultural categories for Sierra Leone include, their concept of suffering and misfortune, the concept of face, and their attitude towards formality. For their concept of suffering and misfortune Sierra Leone like many countries has been affected by mental health illnesses. Many of their people suffer from things such as depression and anxiety. For so long they had not gotten help they did not know there was anything truly help them with their problems, they thought they were just myths. Their concept of face seems to be very big in Sierra Leone.

There is one tradition called “palaver” which is a way of settling disputes immediately to avoid any grudges being held. For example you may see people yelling at each other, in a rather aggressive way, and then hug as if they were best friends, that is palaver. A type of formality that is very important in Sierra Leone is greetings.

Greetings are expected to be learned as a first attempt at learning one or more languages. Handshaking is also a normal for of greeting. An interesting fact is that casual wear is suitable everywhere, men are rarely expected to wear suits and ties (Sierra Leone: Countries and Their Cultures). In conclusion, Sierra Leone has many interesting facts and figures that go along with the country. A person can learn so much about a country and form a great amount of respect for that country if they do just a little bit of research.

Sierra Leone is an amazing place for various people to visit with the Peace Corps. Sierra Leone is filled with so much culture and the country needs outsiders help to help in the destruction caused by their recent flooding and mudslides.


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