Vitabu Reads | Manners Maketh Man: Adventures of a Bo School Boy

At104-pages Siaka Kroma’s  novel Manners Maketh Man: Adventures of a Bo School Boy is a fraction of  Sama Banya’s 484-page autobiography Looking Back, My Life and Times, but the cross references and descriptions of Bo Town and Bo School are fascinating.  Together, both books make a study of how one school enforced national consciousness in Sierra Leonean education.

In Banya’s story, it is the second week of March 1940 when he arrives at Bo School, which by then had only about 90 pupils enrolled. From Looking Back, we learn that Bo School was patterned after the British public school system.  The boys were divided into dormitories named after European cities: London, Liverpool, Paris, and Manchester. Equally, we also learn about the school’s original mission to integrate the “sons and nominees of chiefs” from Northern and Southern Sierra Leone,  “promoting nationally-unifying doctrines, beliefs, personalities, and languages.”

One of the highlights in Banya’s “Bo School Years” chapter i…

Vitabu Reads | A Pillar of the Community

Two weeks later it was Easter Sunday. The atmosphere suited Jedi’s mood even more, for the whole church was decorated with flowers and buntings in happy celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection and triumph over the forces of Satan, sin, death, and hell. Jedi felt he, too, had triumphed over the forces of evil that had sought to destroy him. He, like Christ, could be said to have trodden the forces of Satan underfoot and to hold the keys of death…So he sang the Easter hymns with as much joy and fervor as though they had been written specifically for him.
Little did Jedidiah Thomas know his victory celebration that Easter Sunday was premature. Moral hypocrisy is what ultimately bring about his downfall.

When we first meet the 49-year-old Jedidiah on the balcony of his five-year-old mansion he fondly calls 'My Repose,' Jedi enjoyed a very powerful position as Permanent Secretary in the civil service. He was also serving as a People’s Warden in his home church, and had been…

Vitabu Reads | In Search of Sons

The Sierra Leonean Writers Series first published J. Sorie Conteh’s In Search of Sons in 2007.

The 200-page novel beautifully crafts the past in fictional Talia as the story weaves around life in a rural town during the railway era. Sierra Leone’s rail operated from the 1890s to the mid-1970s.

Conteh’s gripping tale is probably set at the latter end, when air buses had become a more preferred mode of international travel than the work-horse ocean liners of the 1950s and 60s.

The story begins with a fleeting introduction to Kunaafoh, the now adult daughter of Giita, the novel’s tragic heroine.

Although Kunaafoh appears to be the narrator of the ordeal her dead mother went through, she is inexplicably placed in the background while the reader is carried along in her river of memories.

Along the way, Conteh provides fascinating insight into traditional Mende life as he courses through compounds, villages, forests, and rivers to spotlight a marriage buffeted by a complex mix of beliefs d…

Freetown Power Duo hold first-ever Open Mic to mark World Poetry Day #worldpoetryday

Freetown’s first-ever poetry open mic drew poets, novelists, dramatists, singers, and faithful fans on Tuesday, March 21, World Poetry Day. 

Joan Kennessie, a small business owner and women’s rights activist, and Mustapha Kermul Fofanah, a college student majoring in Peace studies, hosted the event with a little help from their friends in the Sierra Leonean Writers Series community, and, O'Casey's, an old Irish bar on Lumley Beach Rd. 

Below are excerpts from their post-event discussion on WhatsApp, with a comment from Mohamed Sheriff of PEN Sierra Leone. 

Joan Kenessie: We planned all this in two weeks and got over 100 people. From the response they appreciated (the poetry) mixed with music and drama. Imagine if we had time to practice and organize what that would have been like!

Lucie, the manager at O’Casey’s, invited her friends and family to the show and this morning she called to tell me she had calls from friends telling her they enjoyed the session and we should do one ju…

Air Force Cadet, Winston Forde Books

Since January, Vitabu Reads has reviewed a number of study abroad books. They include two best sellers in the Sierra Leonean Writers Series: Abdul B. Kamara’s Unknown Destination and Osman Alimamy Sankoh’s Hybrid Eyes: An African in Europe.

Both books had reflections of the authors on culture, identity, and experiences of their time abroad before returning to Africa.
In Winston Forde’s Air Force Cadet, the author takes a different route.

On his blog, Forde says he first started writing while based at Royal Air Force (RAF) Khormaksar from 1965 to 1967.  RAF Khormaksar is a former Royal Air Force station in Aden, Yemen. 
Whilst many of Forde's peers were going for traditional careers like Law, Medicine, and Engineering, he went for what he called a “most unusual choice of life after school.”

When we meet Air Force Cadet’s main character, Ola, he is about to end his schooldays at the Prince of Wales.

Prince of Wales is a secondary school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The school was est…

Vitabu Reads | Sierra Leonean Poets for World Poetry Day 2017, Tuesday, March 21

It’s been 16 years since “The Child of War And Other Poems” was published among a host of poetry reflecting on Sierra Leone’s war. Fighting began on March 23, 1991 and ended in 2002.

It’s also been 16 years since I last read Sheikh Umarr Kamarah’s 36-page kids book. My first reading of “The Child of War And Other Poems” was tinged by a sense of disappointment.

Apart from the cover, with an image of a young man holding a green flag in front of an M1 Abrams battle tank, in what appears to be a cornfield surrounded by a forest of tall trees, there are no other drawings. The kids’ book is devoted more to text than illustrations.

When I finally revisited Kamarah’s poetry for the 2017 Vitabu Reads series, I find the slender book covers a wide canvas with big stories behind the backdrops of text.

Right up front, Kamarah conjures up the stirring image of an iconic landmark in his poem, Freetown Cotton Tree.

“Towering x feet of
Bending under the weight of history

The floral arch…

Vitabu Reads | Telling It As It Was: The Career of a Sierra Leonean Woman in Public Service

For someone who has arguably done more to showcase workplace discrimination than anyone in recent Sierra Leonean history, Umu Kultumie Tejan-Jalloh is quite an unknown advocate.  
Currently a distributor for the Sierra Leone Bottling Company, a partner of The Coca-Cola Company, she runs a small business that uses pushcarts to sell soft drinks and soda pop. She does her own bookkeeping and employs six full-time staff.

It all sounds like a far cry from corporate strategizing in boardrooms early in her career, but she’s apparently living her dream of lifting others higher, working for social justice, and the economic empowerment of women.
Tejan-Jalloh’s book, Telling It As It Was: The Career of a Sierra Leonean Woman in Public Service, which was published late last year by Sierra Leonean Writers Series (SLWS), brings to graphic life her experience of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination during her civil service career.
By the summer of 1976, Tejan-Jalloh wa…