The Sierra Leone CCP Oral History Project Pt. 1

Over the course of the last year the participants received interviewing instruction and interviewed various members of Sierra Leone society. As a collection, these interviews will provide a diverse overview of various segments of Sierra Leone society. Following are excerpts from two interviews which were conducted by the participants. 

The first is an excerpt (in Krio) from an interview with Amatu Toure, a young blind girl, which was conducted by participant Jongopie Cole. This story is about a young girl who became blind when she was 9 years old. She explains how she became blind and how she managed to live with it knowing the true cause of her blindness and its connection to witchcraft. She is been bold and courageous to carefully explain to me the entire truth of her misfortune childhood.

Amatu Toure – SLCCP Interview

Transcript – Translated from Krio to English

Jongopie: This is the Cultural Conservation Project (CCP) in Sierra Leone. Today I am talking to Amatu Toure who will tell us about what it means to be blind in Sierra Leone…

Amatu: Good afternoon my family. I am Amatu Toure. I attend the YDC, I’m taking classes at the SS level. What lead to my blindness is that I was sick so I went up country to my stepmother. This was in the year 2000 when I was nine years old. When I was sick they took me to a village. While in the village I dreamt that someone came and asked me for a bead. However, I denied the person the bead, I didn’t give the person the bead. So, later on, I met this same person who told me to meet them at the waterside. So my stepmother had to take me and my stepsister to the waterside. At the waterside I had to take off the bead and give it to the person. When I took off the bead, I was blind totally and I didn’t see again. So my father came and threatened the person and asked him what caused my blindness. He said that if they did not make me see, he would try to take care of it in his own way.

So my neck became stiff, I was not able to turn my neck. My father tried and tried until my neck was finally turned straight. So he (my father) tried to take care of me. The person that I saw with my stepmother is who made me blind. They said because of my horoscope sign, I became blind. My father told them that if they can make me see it would be fine. But she told me that they wanted to kill me, but because my head was too strong, they weren’t able to kill me and instead they made me blind. They tried to do so many things to make me ill, but they did not succeed. So I went to the hospital, they treated me, they said they needed to do an operation on my eye. But, my uncle said that they shouldn’t do the operation because we should use the “country way” (the traditional way) to take care of this illness. So at the end, they put me in a school for the blind. I was in the blind school up until form 3, then I came home and learned about this youth development program and decided to stay with it until September. At first I was in so much pain, I would cry in pain and feel that my body was finished. I didn’t eat when I first found out I was blind. After I started going to the blind school, I opened up.

At first, I thought that I was the only blind person. But then I saw many of my peers were blind, they were healthy, they prayed, they laughed and they had courage. I continued schooling more and then I went back home. My family still tried to heal me the traditional way but it did not work. Since they could not heal me, I continued with the schooling so that God could make me become successful. I know that it is not easy for a blind person when it comes to schooling. Only an education can make you succeed in life. I am thankful to God that I feel fine. I know that one day I will succeed in life.

The second is an excerpt (in English) from an interview with Nicole Ferguson, a tour guide for the Flagstaff Heritage Tours, and Melvin Septimus Pratt a resident Maroon. This interview was conducted by Amadu Sandy. Situated in the center of Freetown and about 200 yards from the famous Cotton Tree, is a small white building with a red rooftop. This historical building is St. John’s Maroon Church, which was built in 1820 by Jamaican Maroons, who were returned to Sierra Leone by the British. Known for their superb work as stone masons, the Maroon community erected this church with material from the ship, which transported them back to the shores of West Africa. The bell that sits in the courtyard of the church was also salvaged from the ship. The church came to symbolize a place for worship, as well as a center where the Maroon community could socialize and preserve their storied history.

Maroon Culture in Sierra Leone, Interview by Amadu Sandy