Now that it is December, the festive season is taking over. At night, Freetown’s streets are filled with music and dancing. Don’t miss the chance to bring some of Sierra Leone best arts and crafts back home to your family and friends as Christmas gifts, or to send them a parcel from the post office in Freetown.
Here are the top 10 souvenirs from Sierra Leone:
- Wooden sculptures like “the three wise monkeys” called Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru cover their eyes, ears and mouth to “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil”. They can be found together with other sculptures like “the thinking man” or “the eagle” on the Big Market in town, the Lumley Beach Arts and Crafts Market (behind the tourist information) or at the restaurant Papaya in front of Family Kingdom Hotel.
- Traditional clothes like the Krio people’s “print style” dresses are not everybody’s taste out of Africa, but indeed something special. Find them at the Big Market in town, together with the matching headscarf. Alternative: know your friends’ or family members size (you can bring clothes in the right size as a template) and let a taylor design something out of your favorite cloth from the market
- Some Sierra Leoneans are talented portrait drawers. Bring a picture and ask for a drawing. Your family and friends will be delighted!
- The Artists’ Alliance “The Barray” exhibits contemporary art twice a year, usually in April and December. You can buy beautiful drawings there! If you missed their exhibition, contact the artists via Facebook (search for “The Barray Contemporary Visual Artists’ Alliance Sierra Leone”).
- Carvings are usually found at the Big Market in town, the Lumley Beach Arts and Crafts Market or in front of the restaurant Papaya. If you tell the woodcrafter which picture and slogan he shall carve for you into the wood, he will make your individual design. Best place to get your carving: the Big Market in town.
- Lappa comes in the most beautiful colors and is a cloth usually used for dresses, wrap-around skirts or by mothers to tie their baby to their back. Latest trend: frame a lappa as a picture for the wall. The best place to buy lappa is in town.
- A local carpenter doesn’t only make beautiful furniture, but also picture frames, newspaper racks or baskets. Recommended carpenter: Mr. Abel. Go down Wilkinson Road from Murray Town Junction and take the second small dirt path on the left side. Walk about 20 meters to find Mr. Abel.
- Necklaces, earrings or bracelets made of the bones of the Baracuda fish, coconut shells or coffee beans can be found at the Lumley Beach Arts and Crafts market.
- Sierra Leone has a rich culture in which storytelling has always been essential to understanding the country. Every story about spiders, tortoises and owls will teach a lesson. Ask someone to tell a story and write it down for your family and friends!
- You can buy traditional masks at the Big Market in town. The beauty of the masks and the expression of some of the masks’ faces is breathtaking. Each mask has a story to tell – don’t forget to ask for it! If you want to learn more, visit Toma Hotel at Cape Road. They have the biggest collection of masks in Sierra Leone and will be happy to share their knowledge.
Great place to go for presents is the West African Market at the National Stadium called “Tangains”, which is Krio language and means “old time business”. People from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast and other countries will sell traditional clothes as well as arts and crafts two times a year, in April and December. Don’t forget to bargain!
Text: Claudia Christine Wolf