Friday, February 12, 2016


Location: Kenema
Date: 1969
Our neighbor Princess and her daughter Angela would show up regularly at our house, and Susan would teach Princess how to knit. Princess lived nearby and took to knitting quickly and became quite good at it. In those days few people knitted in our area. This was perhaps because few folks had the time given how much most people had to do just to get by. Princess seemed to me to be less busy than others. She certainly had Angela to take care of, and she did this well. About 2 or 3 years old Angela hung on her mother all the time. Princess was a gentle and loving mother. 

photo © by Chad Finer

House of Parliament

Location: Tower Hill Freetown
Date: 1968
A picture of the legislative building in Freetown, Sierra Leone with The Martello Tower to the left. In those days the House of Parliament sat just above Freetown overlooking the city. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sokurella - a Kuranko village at the base of the Loma Mountains

Location: as noted, the village of Sokurella was a 10-15 mile hike from where the road ended at Kurobonla. Although this stretch to Sokurella was not very steep, we passed through savannah country. The heat was oppressive. The last stop before getting into the Loma Mountains was in this village (Sokurella) and it was here that in March 1970, fellow Peace Corps volunteer Lloyd Ziegler and I stayed for two nights. Sokurella consisted of perhaps 20 houses and several hundred people. Given their remoteness the habitants remained quite open and friendly. We were the first to ever stay in the village - most other hikers passed through. But Lloyd was a bit under the weather and we decided to set up our tent in the village after gaining permission to do so - and we stayed for two days. We certainly were a curiosity - but the villagers went about their many activities. Neither Lloyd nor I spoke Kuranko so language and communication was a challenge (we both spoke Krio which was only marginally helpful there). But somehow we were able to make due - I was surprised at how well we were tolerated. I remember it being the end of the Bondo season there, and during the day Bondo initiates walked about the village in fine dress (there were 3 initiates). On our first night there was a spectacular celebration with villagers from elsewhere coming to sing, to dance, and to celebrate. 

Date: March 1970

photo © by Chad Finer
A view from Sokurella looking to the Loma Mountain range and with Mt. Bintumani (our destination) in the clouds in the distance on the left

Dama Road Pole Vault

Location: Dama Road section of Kenema across from the Holy Rosary Secondary School
Date: 1969

I remember this pole vaulting event spontaneously occurring after school when young boys from the St. Paul's Primary School were heading home. In this picture my neighbor Alfred Garlough demonstrates his skill on a very treacherous setting for the pole vault. I do not remember Alfred as being a very accomplished athlete or student. He had been raised for a time in Freetown by an aunt, but in the last two years they moved him back to Kenema to be with his immediate family. Alfred was very smart, but became very street smart to the exclusion of his schooling, eventually becoming a lorry boy. His English language skills were impressive - I remember that. The Garlough family lived across the road from us. Alfred was in his last year at St. Paul's when this photo was taken. 

Alfred Garlough
photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Round Houses

Location: Mende village of Foindu in the Nongowa Chiefdom, Kenema District, Eastern Province
Date:  circa 1969

I was a frequent visitor to this small village several miles to the south of Kenema and about 1-2 miles off of Dama Road. It was here that our neighbor, Mama Hokey Kemoh, came from. I believe that B.S. Massaquoi (Minister of Parliament- and Kenema Town Council member) had several of his cacao plantations here. It certainly was a hotbed of support for him as many of the house doors had his political posters. 
    On this day I traveled to Foindu with two schoolboys who were my neighbors in Kenema. Both of them - Senesi Edward Lahai (on the left) and Momoh Vandy rented rooms in Kenema from Mama Hokey while attending Holy Trinity Secondary School in Kenema.  My reason for the visit on this day is unclear. I especially liked the round houses in Foindu - a style of building in Mende country that I found unusual. These homes in Foindu were kept up very well, and some were white-washed. On the one on the right an artistic mural can be seen

Alfred Garlough
photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mende Masquerade Mural

Location: The Mende village of Foindu in Nongowa Chiefdom
Date: 1969

This picture was found on the wall of a house in the Mende village of Foindu. It depicts a Mende masquerade but I am not sure of its true name - perhaps there is someone out there who may be able to give me the name. 

photo © by Chad Finer


Location: at the agricultural university known then as Njala.  
Date:August 1968

It was at Njala that we continued our Peace Corps training after having spent a month in Freetown with language training (Krio) and teaching at the special summer school set up for us. At Njala we continued daily language instruction. We also had training in the many facets of Sierra Leone agriculture which included learning about rice growing, about coffee (cacao) growing, and other areas. Njala was a refreshing upcountry change from Freetown. Although Freetown was busy, it was very crowded even in those days. Upcountry seemed a nice change. In this photo of a Peace Corps volleyball game, our language instructors mixed it up with us - we spent our free time doing a variety of activities including hiking about the area, playing sports, and trying to use Krio when ever we had the chance. At Njala the dorm space was spacious, and the food was very good. Our 1968 training program was the very first in country training program in the Peace Corps

photo © by Chad Finer
At Njala University College - a game of volleyball with volunteers and our Sierra Leonean language instructors

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bondo at Tokpombu in Nongowa Chiefdom c. 1969

Location: Segburreh players and the Bondo Masquerade (I knew it back then as the Bundu Devil) gather for an outing from the Bondo Bush at the Mende village of Tokpombu - a small village at that time just to the south of Kenema on Dama Road. [I have been told that Tokpombu has now been enveloped by Kenema]
Date:  c. 1969

photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

Hair Plating

LOCATION: At the back of #55 Dama Road in Kenema - Eastern Province (Nongowa Chiefdom)
DATE: probably 1969 

In this photo Baby Hokey gets her hair plated by her mother, Bonya. Probably taken during the dry season, the photo was in the backyard across the road from our house. Bonya was a very fine singer of traditional Bondu songs. She and her daughter lived in the house owned by the local head of the Bondo Society - Mama Hokey Kemoh. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On the Makeni-Kabala Road

Location: In March 1969 I traveled with a fellow Peace Corps volunteer (Skip Smith) to the far north and the Loma Mountains to hike up the highest mountain in Sierra Leone (Mt. Bintumani). This picture was taken on our first day of travel when our transport stopped at a small village to let out some passengers. As was our pattern, when the lorry stopped we would get out and try and stretch a bit as our vehicles were usually quite crowded, and travel was quite tedious. On this stop I saw this family by the side of the road and thought it interesting to take their picture. The large wooden object that the woman is leaning on was a slit drum - basically a large hollowed log with three slits in it. I had seen smaller versions of this in the Kenema area where I lived, but this one was huge. Where they were headed I did not know. The slit drum was played with thick sticks in wonderfully complex patterns of varying pitch depending on where the drum was struck. Its beat could be very powerful. I assume that the area was in Temne country. I am not sure what the slit drum was called in Temne [it may be an bira]. [in Mende it was called a kele.] In those days instruments such as the slit drum were played by men. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Friday, January 29, 2016

Burning in Preparation for planting

Location: Kenema - Eastern Province
Date: late March - early April 1969
At the end of the dry season farmers in the area prepared their farms for planting by the slash and burn method. Rice was planted on the upland. Large swaths of land were cleared by hand (machete) and some areas were set on fire to hasten clearing. Rice was the staple. Upland rice had an almost meaty taste to it. Planted on the hills at the beginning of the rains (April) farms were maintained through the rains until late November or December when the rice began to mature and harvesting by hand began. In this photo is an example of what the night sky looked like on days when farm sites were burned. These burns were surprisingly well-controlled but the night sky for about a week was impressive. 

photo © by Chad Finer

PCV Skip Smith with boys

Location: on the road between Makeni and Kabala - Northern Province
Date: March 1969
Peace Corps volunteer Skip Smith is pictured here with a group of boys during our trip to the Loma Mountains and Mt. Bintumani. Via public transport we left Matotaka where Skip was stationed in primary education, on our journey to the remote mountains. This picture probably was taken on a rest stop of our journey when people traveling with us were let down at their village. As we got out to stretch a bit, the boys from the village surrounded us and allowed me to take their picture with Skip. The slide is labeled Yalunka Country so I suppose this may be possible that the picture was taken on the Kabala-Kurobonla road but of this I am not sure. The Yalunka ethnic group was confined to the far north on the border with Guinea. They had a very small representation in Sierra Leone of about 30,000 people. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Kongoli Masquerade (devil)

Location: Kenema Agricultural Festival (Cacao Show) - Kenema, Eastern Province
Date: circa December 1969

A secular masquerade (devil), Kongoli seemed to be a fun spirit, whose main purpose seemed to be for entertainment especially for the young. I took this photo at the Kenema Agricultural Festival - which took place each December in the government grounds there. There was one year when the festival was canceled due to a political uprising in the area. I do not remember whether this cancellation was in 1968 or 1969. 

photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chief's Caller with Ivory Horn - Hangha C. 1969

LOCATION: probably Hangha (just north of Kenema)
DATE: circa 1969
An entourage including Paramount Chief Vangahun and his caller with the ivory horn. I can not remember what was being celebrated (it may have been Independence Day) but clearly a large group was gathering. The man with the red net covering was a Poro member. I think he was an attendant for a Goboi masquerade that was in the area. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Prime Minister Visit to Kenema - 1970

Date: probably April 1970
Photo (2): a sequence of photos of Prime Minister Siaka Stevens' visit to Kenema in 1970. Schoolboys from Holy Trinity Secondary School (on the left) and from Kenema Government Secondary School (on the right) line the roadway. 



Goboi Masquerade - Kenema

Location: Kenema-Eastern Province
Date: c. 1969
Photo: taken during the Kenema Trade Show (aka Cacao Festival) - this Poro masquerade known as Goboiappeared with its attendants during the festival. Its dance was more frenzied than other masquerades that I had seen. It would rile about in a fury, interspersed with periods of inactivity and rest. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Palm Wine Heading to Market

Location: Blama Road in Kenema
Date: 1968

photo © by Chad Finer

Men carrying Boulies (gourds) of palm wine to the local Kenema Market. It seemed that in our area the Limba ethnic group had almost a monopoly on the tapping of plan trees and the selling of palm wine in the local markets. That is not to say that other ethnic groups didn't tap and drink the wine, but in our area there were small villages of Limba, who, besides making farms and growing rice, also sold wine. The Mende called such salesman Mapalma. These men head west out on Blama Road to what must have been a palm wine market. Palm wine had a yeast-like taste to it - but on a hot day when you had worked hard it could be thirst quenching. For me it took a lot to get used to. 
There was also a local brew called Omoley. Consisting of distilled alcohol this was very strong and I found not to my liking.  

Kendwi at Tokpombu

Location: Tokpombu in Nongowa Chiefdom [Kenema District]
Date: circa 1969
Nearing the end of the Bundo initiation the Kendwi masquerade was carried around the village by the Bundo Society women. The leader of the local Bundo Society, Mama Hokey Kemoh, is seen to the right in the background with the green headdress and orange docket. The Kendwi seemed to mark the end of a successful Bundo season. 

photo © by Chad Finer

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bundu at Bitema (Nongowa)

photo by Chad Finer

Bitema was a small Mende village on the road between Kenema Nongowa chiefdom and Dama chiefdom (Dama Road). It was at Bitema that I met up with this ceremony of a Bundu girl, covered in kaolin, and accompanied by the Bundu masquerade (devil) and several Bundu attendants. From time to time I would be notified by my neighbor and Bundu leader Mama Hokey Kemoh that there would be Bundu activity in our area. Bitema was about 4 to 6 miles from our house = a straight shot down Dama Road from Kenema. From time to time during the correct season I would head down there to watch the activity and take pictures. It was with permission from Mama Hokey that this was allowed. c. 1969

Village of Sokurella - Northern Province

photo © by Chad Finer

March 1970:  I have posted a group of related photos of this Kuranko village which sat on the bush road from Kurobonla to the Loma Mountain summit - Mt. Bintumani. It was in this village that on my second trip to this area in March 1970 Lloyd Ziegler (a fellow Peace Corps volunteer) and I stayed for several days, setting up our tent in the village. I took a number of photos of the goings on in Sokurella - the villagers were warm and friendly and seemed to tolerate us being a part of the background activity. March marked the very last month of the Dry Season and although it got very hot and very humid it did not rain. During the mid-day it got uncomfortably hot in the sun, but sitting under the covering of a Kuranko house veranda could lessen the temperature by as much as 10ยบ. This photo of a Kuranko woman making a fishing net was taken under such a covering. 

Netball - Kenema Teacher's Training College c. 1969

photo © by Susan Finer

Amusingly, when we arrived at the Kenema Holy Rosary Secondary School and the Kenema Teacher's Training College I was assigned, among other things, to be the netball coach for both institutions. Not only did I not know what netball was but I had also no idea about the game. Sister Miriam (Sr. Tracey) gave me a rule book (out of the U.K.) and off I went to read about the game. Luckily the students knew the game, and when I made blunders they corrected me so that I learned quickly. I had two teams - one from the HRSS-Kenema Secondary School, and one from the Teacher's Training College. In this photo taken by my wife the TTC is playing the TTC from Pujehun - at Pujehun in the Southern Province. The teachers were very competitive and as I remember, they won this game. My Secondary School team played that day against the HRSS Pujehun team and did not fare as well. In the picture - the Kenema TTC is in white uniforms with Juliana Bio with the ball and Dolly Peters to the right. That's me in the picture doing the refereeing. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Kuranko Weaver - Village of Sokurella - March 1970

photo © by Chad Finer
Side view of the typical tripod loom used by weavers to weave country cloth. Raw cotton, having been picked at the end of the rice harvest, was prepared by the women (picked, cleaned, carded, dyed, and made into thread) and woven in those days by the men. Very long bands of woven material would then be sewed into clothes or large blankets. In this Kuranko village of Sokurella (at the base of the Loma Mountains) this man seemed to be the only weaver. The weaving was tedious. 

Palm Wine at Vaama Nongowa c. 1969

photo © by Chad Finer
Pa Sam adjusts his harness as he readies to climb a palm tree to get some palm wine. This photo was taken mid-day on Pa Sam's farm near his village (Vaama). Days were hot and humid and palm wine was used as a thirst quencher. The harness was used to climb the trunk of the palm tree where the tree was tapped.

Friday, January 22, 2016

International Market in Koindu

photo © by Chad Finer
Fula woman with baby at the International Market in Koindu. This market was located where the borders of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia come together. Photo taken in 1969

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mama Mabinty and Aminata Lahai making Wax Prints - Kenema

photo © by Chad Finer

Mama Mabinty (to the left) lived in our neighborhood where she made tie dyed material and wax prints which she sold locally. Here she is creating one of her wax prints with the help of one of our secondary school students, Aminata Lahai. Photo taken in 1969-70 in the Dama Road section of Kenema. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kuranko Woman Carding Cotton - Loma Mountains - Northern Province

photo © by Chad Finer
March 1970: Nearing the end of the dry season, the cotton had been picked and here she carded the cotton getting it ready to make cotton thread for country clothes. This photo was taken in the village of Sokurella, a small village at the base of the Loma Mountains and Mt. Bintumani. This woman had the typical hairdo of Kuranko women. This was taken on the veranda of her home during the mid-day when heat was intense. This village sat a short distance from the border with Guinea. 

Kenema Trade (Cacao) Fair 1969

photo © by Chad Finer
These men perform at the December 1969 Kenema Cacao Fair. These men sang Mende songs while playing drums and the hollowed out log instrument known as a Kele. Kenema had a diverse population of many ethnic groups. During this trade fair all groups participated in song and dance. 

Chief's Horn Blower and Horn - Panguma - Eastern Province

Photo © by Chad Finer
This photo was taken in Panguma at the dedication of the Catholic Mission Hospital there in 1969. Designed by Peace Corps community development volunteer Warren Van Hoos (pictured elsewhere) and built with assistance from Peace Corps community development volunteers - the hospital was run by Holy Rosary sisters and a doctor. Unfortunately, I have been told that during the Civil War the hospital was damaged. In this photo the Paramount Chief's horn blower posed for a picture with his Ivory horn. The horn was used to announce the presence of the chief

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Bush Road to Vaama

photo © by Chad Finer

My friend Patrick Garlough on the bush road to the village of Vaama in Nongowa Chiefdom. This was a very typical looking bush road for the area where we lived. From our house to here was a distance of about 5 miles from our back door. Walking in the bush was pleasant, cooler by far than walking in the direct sun. During the rain season however these roads became at times treacherous

Kendwi at Tokpombu Nongowa c. 1969

photo © by Chad Finer
In the Mende village of Tokpombu,  just outside of Kenema
Marking the end of Bondo initiation, the Kendwi Spirit is carried about the village by women of the Bondo Society. The leader of the local society, Mama Hokey Kemoh is pictured on the left in the orange-red blouse (docket) and green headdress. I was never able to find out much about this spirit (Kendwi). Its presence seemed to have an interesting effect on the women - for as they carried it about they seemed entranced and almost in a frenzy to move it about. This picture was taken at the end of local Bondo activities in about March 1969 or 1970.