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Unity, Freedom, Justice

The motto depicted on the Sierra Leone coat of arms is ‘unity, freedom, justice’. Often notions of discord, oppression and corruption are associated with Sierra Leone, my family’s motherland, this work conversely looks to celebrate what it means to be Sierra Leonean from the perspective of the African diaspora.

Usually former British colonies are considered in relation to a period of time relative to their colonisation, with the pre-colonial history disregarded. Within this self portrait, I assume the attire of two figures who contributed to the development of Sierra Leone in the 16th and 17th century respectively, Farma Tami and Mansa Kama.

Farma Tami founded the Temne tribe, of which my family are descendants of, in the mid 16th century. He was known as The Great Mane Conqueror. He was one of the leaders of the Mane invaders in the early 1500s; historians reference the warriors’ advanced concepts of government and improved methods of weaving and manufacturing iron. Farma Tami organised and empowered his people.

Mansa Kama was known as a Great Koranko Warrior and was for all intents and purposes a king of his people. He led the Koranko into what is modern day Tonkolili, Sierra Leone in the mid 17th century. Remembered as the epitome of a brave pioneer, the Temne tribe in the 19th century retained a version of his name to be used as the title of the tribe’s ruler, Masakma.

The ornate frame holds within it a majestic lion with zigzag lines in the background representative of the Lion Mountains, where the name Sierra Leone originates. The two figures, drawings of myself, dressed as Farma Tami and Mansa Kama hold up the frame, as a clear motif paying homage to their legacy.

This ballpoint pen artwork is drawn on pages from a 1954 Sierra Leonean text.


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