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!