Friday, August 11, 2017

Bondo Initiates - Kuranko village of Sokurella - March 1970 [photos © by Chad Finer - all rights reserved]

Sokurella is situated at the base of Mt. Bintumani in the Loma Mountains - the highest mountains in West Africa outside of Mt Cameroon. These Bondo initiates walked about the village at the end of their initiation which was about to take place. I am told that the young woman on the right still lives in the village and has seen a picture that I took of her (which is also in this blog - see below).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Backyard at #55 Dama Road

photo © by Chad Finer
The back yard at Dama Road was usually very busy with meal preparation. Mornings might be spent gathering firewood but by mid afternoon the rice would be worked in the mortar and pestle and then cooked on outdoor fires. In this image the woman (Baindu Lansana and Mamie) and little Hokey "Kpokpoi" are seen pounding the rice in preparation for the evening meal. This photo was taken out the back door (and from the back veranda) of #55 Dama Road - in Kenema. When there were rains the kitchen would be moved under shelter but this sheltered kitchen was smokey. Here three logs regularly moved in to keep them burning were used to cook the rice. This photo was taken in 1969-70.

Termite Nest

photo © by Chad Finer
This photo taken in 1969 near the village of Foindu in Nongowa Chiefdom shows a large termite mound. In the picture is also Senensi Edward Lahai who was a neighbor and also a secondary school student at Holy Trinity in Kenema. This photo was taken on one of my visits to Foindu in which I was accompanied by Senensi and a friend of his Momoh Vandy. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

An Upland Rice Farm

photo © by Chad Finer

This photograph was taken in 1969 near the village of Vaama in the Nongowa Chiefdom of Kenema District. Situated near the River Moa, this was a very typical upland farm of about 2 or 3 acres. Also typical is the farm house, which was more of a shelter. In this photo the land had been prepared by the slash (with machete) and burn method, and rice had been planted. A rice meal is being prepared by the woman in the picture while her son walks off to the left. This farm was made by my friend Pa Sam and his wife (of Vaama). The small Mende village of Vaama was situated about a mile or so from here. It was a village of several related people and families that sat next to the River Moa. There was no road into Vaama and no modern conveniences. Yet folks maintained their independence there. A ferry from the river's edge there crossed over into Dama Chiefdom.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

MASQUERADES - spirits/devils

There were many masquerades that crossed my path in Sierra Leone. They tended to come out when there were either celebrations or holidays. There were also many to be seen at our local Kenema Agricultural Show (Cacao Show). Many seemed to perform during such times - and of course they might request a tip for their performance.  The one that seemed most common for me was the Bondo or Sande Masquerade of the secret women's society. There were others including Falwi, Goboi, Jobai, Kongoli, and Landi Bowie. These played an important role in upcountry life at least as I saw it. There were many others that I had heard about but never saw. 

Landi Bowie

photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer


photo © by Chad Finer



photo © by Chad Finer
outside of Capitol Cinema in Kenema
PCV Warren Van Hoos CD on right

photo © by Chad Finer


photo © by Chad Finer


photo © by Chad Finer


photo © by Chad Finer

Foindu in Nongowa Chiefdom

photo © by Chad Finer
An afternoon spent in this small Kenema District Mende village when the Bondo was active. In this picture taken in 1969 during the Bondo activity the head of the area Bondo, Mama Hokey Kemoh (seen in this picture sitting next to Susan on the left) let me know that there was going to be activity in her village. Foindu was several miles south of where we lived, On this day we spent the afternoon as Bondo activity went on around us. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Baby Hokey

Baby Hokey (front) lived with her mother Bonya at #55 Dama Road in Kenema. Born just prior to our arrival in the area, Hokey was named after the head of the area Bondo Society leader who owned the house where they lived. This photo was taken in the back yard at their house. In this area there was always lots going on from preparing meals, to the cooking of meals, to other daily activities. On the back veranda (a boy is seen in the background there) when nights were right, the women of the house would gather to sing wonderful traditional Mende songs - both secular and of Bondo origin. Bonya was a very talented singer and was frequently the leader of the singing. She had a beautiful voice. I was especially moved by the harmonies which by my ear had a an especially eery quality. Date: 1969

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sokurella - A Remote Village at the base of the Loma Mountains

Portrait of a Kuranko Woman at Sokurella - March 1970
photo © by Chad Finer

Hiking in to this village from Kurobonla, and the end of the roadway was tedious. It was hot (we started off in fog and actually cool weather) and very humid. The terrain was hilly but not severe, but there was high razor grass that could cut you if you weren't careful. Our guide, obtained from the paramount chief, led the way. From Kurobonla to Sokurella, the last village before heading up the mountain, was a distance of about a dozen miles or so. We had started early in the morning, and by mid-afternoon reached Sokurella. 

Situated at the base of the Loma Mountains in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, the Kuranko village of Sokurella was a quiet, and small village of perhaps two dozen homes. I hiked here with fellow Peace Corps volunteer Lloyd Ziegler on our March 1970 trek into the mountains. We stayed in the village for two days. In this picture boys from the village play football (soccer) with the inside of a fruit used as the ball. This picture was taken in the late afternoon. 

photo © by Chad Finer
A view from the village (Sokurella) to the Loma Mountains and to the summit - Bintumani which is seen in the distance and in the clouds just to the right of the nearest house. Taken in the morning of our departure to hike on to Bintumani. In this picture to the right of the house on the left are new bales of roofing material to be used in renovating the house roof. 


A mat maker with his apprentice in the village of Sokurella - March 1970

From Sokurella the hike up to the plateau country below the summit of Bintumani was through at first more grassland (with razor grass) and then up through a canopy of forest that gave a wonderful protection from the heat. In the forest it was cool and somewhat damp - but the temperature difference was remarkable as we ascended up the trail. Up on top (still below the summit by perhaps 500 to a thousand feet) there was grassland and spectacular 360ยบ views. The most impressive views were accompanied by the realization that is was cool (for the first time since our arrival in Sierra Leone) and there was a gentle breeze. The hike from Sokurella was perhaps 5 hours or more - but this grassland sloped upward out of the forest and made for expansive views everywhere. The summit sat above us from this point - we made camp here with the plan to head up to the summit later on. Date: March 1970

The game of Warri

photo © by Chad Finer
Location: Kuranko village of Sokurella - Northern Province in Loma Mountains

Date: March 1970

Lloyd Ziegler, fellow Peace Corps volunteer who was stationed in Kenema (Holy Trinity Secondary School) plays Warri with a man from Sokurella. 

Here is a site explaining the game:

boys playing Warri also in the Kuranko village of Sokurella - March 1970 (same veranda as above picture)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Falwi Masquerade

photo © by Chad Finer
Location: Kenema at the Cacao Show
Date: c. 1969-70
This photo was taken outside the Cacao Show. With the masquerade are musicians with hollowed log percussion instruments known at Kele, and with a drum. An attendant is seen behind Falwi. 

Multiple Masquerades

Location: probably Kenema during the Kenema Cacao Show 1969-70
In this photo multiple masquerades are seen. Jobai is on the left with the red top and banners. On the right is Falwi. I do not remember the one behind the police officer. In the background there are more. These masquerades were most present publicly at the time of important events. photo © by Chad Finer

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fula Acrobat - Ramadan

Location: Dama RoadKenema - at Section Chief Pa Maju Bah's house
Date:  1970
This series of photos was taken at Pa Maju Bah's house on Dama Road in Kenema. He was the Kenema Fula Section chief's in Kenema. Pa Maju lived several houses from where we lived in Kenema. His house was always crowded with visitors. This series was taken during a Muslim celebration and holiday - most likely marking the end of Ramadan. Pa Maju was a wealthy man by Sierra Leone standards - he had been to Mecca. It was Pa Maju who stopped me as I walked by his house after the moon landing to question me about why Americans wanted to play God. Later I was able to obtain a projector and film of the landing (from the USIS in Freetown) and show him the landing. I never had an adequate answer however to his question. 








Monday, February 29, 2016

Staff Housing - HRSS in Kenema

Date: October 1968  

23rd Birthday September 1969

Location: HRSS Kenema Staff housing - Kenema, Eastern Province
Date: September 1969
Susan's birthday - age 23

photo © by Chad Finer

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dama Road

Location: Dama Road about 1/2 mile south of Kenema Town - Eastern Province
Date: August 1969 about 3 :30 PM in the afternoon

Almost everyday we walked from our house up on the plateau to Kenema to get supplies, or to get the mail. In this picture the Fula section chief's house [Pa Maju Bah] is seen at the top of the hill on the right. One of his cows is seen grazing in the grass. Our house was further on on Dama Road about one-quarter mile from where the picture was taken. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mosque at Foindu Nongowa

Location: Mende village of Foindu in Nongowa Chiefdom - Kenema District
Date: 1969
Foindu was a small Mende village outside of Kenema Town (by about 6 miles) and about 1 - 2 miles off the Kenema-Dama Road. In this photo is the inside of the Foindu mosque with the large prayer drum used to call people to pray. Foindu was made up of maybe 30 houses of varying size and shape (there were a number of round houses). Although nominally a Muslim town - the Muslim influence on folks was profound although not fundamental. There was also a strong native influence as I have documented in other postings. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Railroad Line to Kenema

photo © by Chad Finer
The narrow gauge railway between Freetown and Pendembu was an alternative to public transport for us but it was very slow. We did take it back to Kenema (a distance of about 200 miles) on one occasion after a trip to Freetown to see the Peace Corps doctor and get our update gamma-globulin shots. I remember the trip taking about 12 hours or more. It was not crowded but never-the-less it was so time-consuming that we only took it on this one occasion. There were no amenities on the train, and the seats were somewhat uncomfortable. It was hot. But the scenery was different and thus interesting. It certainly was less hazardous then the roads, and much less of a hassle. 
Date: December 1968

The Helmet mask - Bondo Mask

photo  by Chad Finer
These men were commissioned by carver Bockarie Su Gande to cut wood into sections which were then to be carved by Su Gande into Bondo masks. Su Gande told me that he had been watching this tree for quite a while before he hired the men to cut it up for him. It was on a trip with him to his village near Panguma that he took me to where this all was happening. He picked up the cut wood sections and had them transported to his home in Kenema, where he then proceeded to carve very fine masks. It was from this wood that he carved me 3 helmet masks that I had negotiated with him to make. I gave one to our neighbor, Mama Hokey Kemoh, who was the head of the local Bondo society. 

photo © by Chad Finer
Two Bondo masks carved by master carver Bockarie Su Gande from the log being sawed in the first picture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bondo at #55 Dama Road

Location: Kenema
Date: circa 1969

photo © by Chad Finer
Photo of the backside of the Bondo masquerade taken in front of #55 Dama Road. Here the masquerade is seen with its attendant. The two onlookers on the veranda are Salimatu Tholey Karankey (L) and Baindu Lansana - both residents of the house that was directly across the road from where we lived. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Goboi with Attendants

photo © by Chad Finer
Location: Kenema
Date: c. 1969-70

The Goboi masquerade had a wild and chaotic presence with intermittent very chaotic movements interspersed with periods of required rest. Here accompanied by a drummer and aided by its attendants - it seemed to be a crowd pleaser as seen here in this photo. 

Jobai with Attendants

Location: Hangha - near Kenema
Date: circa 1969
photo © by Chad Finer

photo © by Chad Finer

I do not remember the circumstance for the coming out of this masquerade. That being said I think this photo was taken in Hangha - essentially at that time Hangha was a suburb of Kenema. This may have been part of a celebration of independence day in 1969. Jobai, seen here with attendants had some unusual movements - it could amusingly collapse to an almost flat position [I have posted a series showing this elsewhere]. Jobai was a Mende masquerade (devil) that seemed to come out during celebrations. The main portion - the body - was composed of raffia made from palm tree leaves - its top was made of finely colored yarn fashioned into various shapes - 4 bands of country cloth hung in front and back, and on the sides. 

location: Eastern Province

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Kuranko Woman with Red Necklace

photo © by Chad Finer
Location:village of Sokurella - Northern Province - foothills of the Loma Mountains and Mt. Bintumani
Date: March 1970

From the Kurobonla side of Mt. Bintumani I hiked into this village, the last village from this side at the base of the mountain. As noted before the hike into this village was not steep but the heat and humidity were impressive. My fellow hiker Lloyd Ziegler, a Peace Corps volunteer also stationed in Kenema where he taught at  Holy Trinity Boy's Secondary School, and I stayed in the village for several days before heading on up the mountain to the summit. This photo was taken during the middle of the day, when the sun was very bright, but where you could to some degree escape the heat by sitting on the veranda of a house. This woman permitted me to take her picture, and sit on her veranda. I was attracted by her bright red necklace. She was caring for a number of children - the white spool on the left in the picture was a spool of cotton being made into cotton thread - eventually to be used for weaving into bands of country cloth. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Rice Harvest

Location: Kenema
Date: 1969
Harvesting rice was very labor intensive - it was all done by hand. For the most part, Sierra Leone rice was grown on the upland. It was said that folks didn't like working in the swamps - it was just too damp and cold. There may have been other factors here as well. That being said - from time to time I did come across farmers working in swamps in rice paddies. In this picture - a Mende woman is seen cutting matured rice in what was a very extensive area of swamp just below where we lived, and on the road from our house to downtown Kenema. On the north side of Dama Road in this area - the Fula section chief, Pa Maju Bah,  pastured his cows from time to time. And on the other side of the road rice was grown in this swamp. During the rain season (April to October) rice was first planted, then cared for, and then at the end of the year it matured and during the dry season (December to March) it was harvested when ready. 

photo © by Chad Finer

boy winnowing rice - photo taken in the Mende village of Mekonde - Kori Chiefdom of Moyamba District (near Njala)
August 1968
photo © by Chad Finer

Cooking with Elizabeth

Location: Dama Road - Kenema
Date: 1968-69
This image of Susan and Elizabeth Garlough was at our house and just outside where we cooked. Elizabeth showed us how to remove the small stones that found their way into our uncooked rice. We ate the local upland rice almost everyday. It was tasty - better tasting by far than the so-called Carolina rice that we were used to in the States. Elizabeth lived nearby. She had befriended us when we arrived in Kenema. 

photo © by Chad Finer

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