Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pa Sam at his farmhouse near Vaama Nongowa

This is perhaps the most favorite of all the pictures that I took while in Sierra Leone. It was a cloudy day with rain off and on. The weather was typical of the end of the rainy season in upcountry Sierra Leone. Pa Sam was a hard working man from the small village of Vaama in Nongowa Chiefdom. He was serious, a man of few words, yet like many folks I knew, confident and capable. Each year he and his wife Massa would "make farm" on a hill side near their village (and near the River Moa). He grew upland or "Mende" rice (to his left rice is seen nearing ready for harvest a few weeks away) and usually his plot was quite large. Although most of his work was done alone, from time to time family members would come and help out, and in return receive rice when the harvest was in. I do remember one Sunday in which, Emile Garlough, Alfred Garlough, Patrick Garlough, and Peace Corps Volunteer named Mike Maurizzi, and I went out to give Pa Sam some help. I was of little help and Emile was perhaps the hardest worker. In the heat at midday Pa Sam climbed up and obtained palm wine for us. By this time my hand was useless with blisters, but I remember how thirst quenching the palm wine was. Although we did not get drunk, I certainly did get a bit tipsy from the palm wince that was shared.
In this photo, Pa Sam sits on a log support of his farm house, a shelter from sun and rain during farming. With the coming of the rains it gets damp and relatively cool - for this reason Pa Sam has his overcoat hanging. There is also an umbrella which would come in handy on the road home if the rain got heavy. On the log and to Pa Sam's right is a sling for throwing stones. This was used effectively to drive the birds away so that they would not eat the rice seed. In the left of this picture, and on the ground, is my red airline camera bag. With two cameras inside - one for color slides, and one for black and white, I traveled all over our area, almost never without a camera. The growing of rice on the upland began first just before the rains with slash and burning of an area. The seed was then broadcasted and scratched into the soil using an adze. Rice grew quickly from April through October when the rains would be heavy. Then with the coming of the dry season - the rice would brown and be harvested. Pa Sam was generous with his family. Due to the large size of his usual planting he usually had enough rice to share about. [if you want to see a larger version of this picture double click on it]

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