Lockdown in a dog collar

An Africana shirt and a dog collar, Rev. Lawrence Davis from St. Johns Cathedral sure knows how to blend on-the-job basics with off-duty flair. “I usually wear this type of combination when I am showing a more casual style, people know who I am but I look relaxed as well”, he says.

The big question though is why is the Rev’s hand on his heart? Because the Sierra Leone Government has just launched a Zero Ebola campaign and this good man of god is pledging a commitment to end Ebola in his country, that’s why. And what is his pledge? “I promise to tell my congregation how to prevent this dreadful disease of Ebola”.

IMG_5014The Zero Ebola campaign kicked off this weekend in celebratory style with the country’s third lockdown since this sh*tty outbreak started in May last year. It’s a final push by the Government to end Ebola and also a chance for people to sit at home for three days and complain about being forced to sit at home for three days. The hope is that it will allow people to pledge, reflect on the hard work and sacrifices already made, and re-comitt to ending the spread of this evil disease.

For some the long weekend is a break from work and a chance to relax, but for many it’s an overbearing pain in the a*s. If you live a hand-to-mouth existence, like most people in this country, and have to rely on a daily subsistence income, it’s tough gathering enough food to feed your folks for three whole days.

A team of friendly door-knockers known commonly as social mobilisers are visiting households and giving out bars of soap (yep, everyone needs a bar of soap right?) and spreading those Ebola messages we can all recite in our sleep. In case you need reminding: call 117 if someone in your house has Ebola symptoms and don’t touch dead bodies.

Rev. Lawrence we wish you and your congregation well in the lockdown and we are thinking of all Sierra Leoneans this weekend, e nor easy O! Let’s hope this marks the beginning of the end of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

No palavars, only respect

A vision in white, Alhajee Tamba Senessie is wearing the same outfit he wore seven years ago when he travelled to the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. “It was beautiful nice and holy and everyone was wearing white”. When I spotted him, he was leaving his Mosque after Friday prayer in Congo Town. IMG_4259
This quiet man with a distinguished background is not only a local politician, he is also a Justice of the Peace and Commissioner for Oaths. Someone with this much repsonsibility recognises the importance of dressing with reverence and respect, “White clothes like this distinguish you, they force you to conduct yourself politely and control your mood and behaviour. I avoid making a palaver when I am wearing these clothes”.

IMG_4255And how do you keep those whites so white Alhajee? “Washing carefully, ironing and being respectful to your clothes. My wife usual helps me do this”.

Self help and fashion by Kallie Weezy

When you meet the sometimes controversial yet always loveable Kallie Weezy, the first thing you notice is his special brand of swag. An edgy nod to detail, coupled with a quiet sophistication makes Kallie a fashion role model for the young men of Freetown. Yet it’s his sage words of wisdom that also demand you stand up and take notice, and when delivered by a man wearing a Louis Vuitton bucket hat teamed with a crisp white Abaya you can’t help but listen.

ice-cream“From when I was a small boy to now, I love fashion, it is a big happiness for me”.  Kallie’s biggest style secret is to always look presentable. “Cleanliness is next to godliness, when you are clean you will be inside of god”. This tidiness mantra has also helped Kallie when it comes to dating, “If you’re untidy, girls won’t like you, so I stay clean always”. “You should not be the tail, you should be the head”, Kallie adds. What the hell does that mean Kallie? “Be the best, always!”.

Off-duty cleaner

While much has changed in Freetown over the past months, if there’s one thing that remains unchanged, it’s  Sierra Leone’s commitment to Africana Friday.  Saidu is one of the Ebola isolation unit cleaners, he had just changed out of his sweaty old scrubs and was relaxing in his favourite Africana two piece when I spotted him.

IMG_3417This ensemble was given to him by his uncle and he says, “It’s a lot cooler than PPE and the design is more stylish as well”. Couldn’t agree with you more Saidu.

The job of a cleaner on the isolation unit is not easy, it’s tough on those wards and keeping them clean involves a lot of physical work all while being dressed in a stifling plastic suit. It is also extremely risky because you are dealing with highly infectious bodily fluids. “I’m not scared though, I am protected and I know how to be safe”. Saidu is trying to save the money he earns as a cleaner to further his education and plans to study economics when university in Sierra Leone resumes. “I would also like to buy some more clothes, some more Africana trousers would be very nice”.

For a compelling peak into the dangerous world of an Ebola isolation unit cleaner, check out this video created by award winning film maker Mike Duff.

Whine time

Do you live in London? Got no plans for tomorrow night? Well do I have a plan for you! ‘Sweet Palm Whine’ will bring together the best of contemporary West African musicians under one thumping roof for a fundraiser to support the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone. Part of the money raised will be channelled through Fashpack and we will be using it to support the real heroes of this fight, local health workers as well as Ebola orphans.


And here are the deets:
Date: 5th December
Time: 8pm-12pm
Venue: The Russet : 17 Amhurst Terrace, London E8 2BT
West African Artists including: Mensa, Silvastone, Zambezi experience, Dj Little, Fire Fire Fire and Vicky Sola will all be there.

The dream team behind this event includes Celia Turley, Catriona Towriss, Neema Patel and Rabia Gungor. These London-based ladies all met and became friends when they were living and working in Freetown earlier this year.

In Celia’s words, “The images of victimhood, disease and death which is the inevitable narrative of much of the international reporting on Ebola in West Africa, did not tally with our experiences of Sierra Leone, or the reports from our friends still living there, who are facing Ebola with typical resilience and strength. We decided to put on a night of music which would showcase some of the culturally vibrant, exciting artists coming out of West Africa and act as an alternative representation to the ‘dark continent’ trope being rehearsed by initiatives such as BandAid30,”. Take that Geldof.

I spoke to Rabia Gungor about her love for Mama Salone and the nation’s beverage of choice – palm wine.

RabiaThat’s Rabia hiding behind the sign.

Why do you have a crush on Sierra Leone?
My connection to Sierra Leone is indescribable, sometimes I find the English language restrictive, for example the word love cannot capture the actual emotions of love. Sierra Leone is the same, it is difficult to describe and it is so much more than Lion Mountains. I feel I sowed seeds and have become rooted as I have a name sake, friends, colleagues and people I love there.

Why do think people so many people around the world have such a fondness for this country?
Sierra Leone has magic and gets under your skin! It is difficult to generalise humans and nations as it cannot be generalised, however I think most people love Sierra Leone because it is a beautiful place. Also Sierra Leoneans are friendly, hospitable and sharing people. When I think of Sierra Leone, I think it is creative, resourceful, amazing and inspiring place, so I assume these things draw people to love it.

Why is the name of the fundraiser sweet palm whine?
The name of this fundraising event was inspired by Sierra Leones sweet palm wine and dancing (whine). I first had palm wine in the bush somewhere in between Makeni and Magburka. It was the sweetest thing I had tasted; freshly tapped from the tree it reminded me of lychee juice, it was milky white, sweet and refreshing. I have also seen some of the best dancers in salone whining! That is why I and my friends named the event sweet palm whine.

Do you have any recommendations on how to drink this exotic beverage?
My recommendations for drinking palm wine are as follows; get it freshly tapped from the tree and never drink alone! Palm wine is from god to u/man and needs to be shared, once you share palm wine, you sit back, relax and enjoy the oral stories and histories everyone shares, this wine was made to be shared!

Rapel style and hair product

Anyone who has spent time in Freetown will know it is home to hundreds of tailors. But Ibrahim Charlo Bah is not just a tailor, he is a designer, a wardrobe chameleon and a man with great hair.

IMG_3425 Let’s talk first about the attire, “I call this Rapel style”. I just googled ‘Rapel style’ and…. well….. nothing. But whatever, if ‘Rapel style’ means wearing an embroidered two piece with poo pants, it rocks! Moving onto Ibrahim’s hair.  Those finely moulded finger waves have been achieved by applying a truckload of hair product and avoiding any direct contact with water.

It hasn’t been easy for the tailors of Freetown in the past months, in the words of Ibrahim, “Ebola is breaking businesses and slowing down our country. It is a war for us, we are not hearing gun shots but we are seeing dead bodies”.

If you are in Freetown and feel like some ‘Rapel style’ or just a great new outfit, why not give Ibrahim a buzz. He is waiting for your business +232 76994588. He’ll come to your house, listen to a long-winded vision of your chosen clothes item, measure you up, then return several days later with an original masterpiece. Get on the blower now!

Bow down to Bilikisu

Introducing Connaught Hospital Ebola unit nurse, the beautiful Bilikisu Koroma. Her smile dazzles, her style is on the money and her story will make you want to bow down beneath her high-top clad feet.

IMG_3149Bilikisu’s experience of the Ebola ward has not only been as a nurse treating patients, it is where she spent 12 days battling the disease. Bilikisu lost 17 relatives to Ebola including her father, seven brothers and four sisters before she herself recovered along side her elder brother Jusif. Her grief is impossible to imagine and her resilience and optimism is beyond inspirational. “I have the skills and immunity to save lives, I wanted to come back to the ward and help people who were in my position, it is where I belong for now.”

K-K is the only one

If this image doesn’t intimidate you, it should. This is Kadiatu Kamara, otherwise know as ‘K-K’, Sierra Leone’s only female surfer. Her home turf is paradise-on-earth Bureh Beach, where she is a member of Sierra Leone’s only surf club. While Ebola has put a temporary kibosh on all sports and social gatherings across the country, it seems that surfing has survived and K-K is out in the waves almost everyday.


K-K has been surfing for over a year now and is better than most of the boys. “My girl friends are scared of the water, this is why I am the only one. But I try and encourage them and say ‘come and join me’, I want them to try”. K-K’s chosen surfie chick look is a skinny rash and boardies and her smoothest surf trick? “A small barrel”. If you ever get to watch K-K in action I recommend it, she is simply awesome.

Mr Kenema

Eddy is not just another handsome man strolling along Lakka beach outside Freetown, no way. You’re looking at Mr Kenema 2013 and 2014. According to Eddy, he won the title for two consecutive years thanks to his ‘cool and casual style’.

IMG_2545Well dah! Check out the matching monochrome LV print top and pant, and exotic Pakistani pointy toed slippers.

Sunday at the office

Miniratu is one of the many Sierra Leonean staff at the Freetown and Western Area Command Centre working tirelessly on the management of Ebola cases. This means coordinating the flow of information and actions from the moment someone calls the 117 emergency Ebola hotline to report that they or a relative might have Ebola symptoms, right up until when that same patient either survives Ebola and is released from a treatment centre or is buried. IMG_2537Miniratu was snapped on a Sunday in this Africana ensemble, she now works seven days a week and no longer has time to attend her favourite church service. “Right now the Command Centre is more important than Church. I still wear my Sunday clothes though, my tailor made this outfit. Now I pray at my house.” What do you pray for?  “I pray that this sickness will dissolve from our country, I pray that this will happen tomorrow”.