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