Looking Back On The Path Of The Literary Arts In Sierra

Looking Back On The Path Of The Literary Arts In Sierra


To start examining the topic requires defining and understanding the key terms. Of course the phrase “looking back” implies recollecting and reflecting on what has gone on in the past and in our specific case this is confined to what has gone on in the past of the literary arts scene in Sierra Leone which is the former British colony literary magazine  in the West coast of Africa, surrounded by Guinea, Conakry and Liberia which became independent on 27th April 1961.

The word “ART” in The Oxford Dictionaries has been defined as follows:

  1. The production of something beautiful, or the skill and ability in such work.
  2. Works such as paintings, sculptures produced by skill. Creative activities such as paintings, theatre and story or poetry writings.
  3. Skill applied to design, representation or imaginative creation.
  4. The conscious use of skilled imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.

These then suggest that the broad gamut of art covers music, cinema, photography, painting, theatre, dance, literature and architecture.

This article, for reasons of space, has been limited to the literary arts. I will as the situation demands be making passing references to other aspects of the arts as we go along.

Literature itself is a central art. It is of course the finer material of theatre and sometimes of dance, more so ballet. It is also related to those performing arts in the sense that it also recaptures the dramatic representation of action or slices of life, albeit through the written mode. But depending on the skill of the presentation such representation resonates with life almost as if it were a dramatic recreation or even the very real situation itself. It also captures what the visual arts capture through not the brush of a painter or the camera of the photographer but through its presentation through a carefully selected arranged sequence of words, which convey a vivid and accurate image of that picture.

Through words then, a literary writer recaptures the visual images of a painter or photographer in the written mode. Through the reader’s skills in unraveling the mental images, unveiling of the symbols hidden behind language through mental images, he gets the visual representation of reality that words carry. The rhythm is most prominent in poetry, particularly in drama. This should not suggest that rhythm could not be found in novels and short stories. We all know how deep an ingredient, music and dance is in African drama which the late Dele Charley, John Kolosa Kargbo, Yulisa Amadu Maddy, Raymond De Souza-George and Charley Haffner, often exemplify in their performances.

I intend to look at the literary scene as it was before independence in 1961. Literature was then seen largely through the medium of newspapers of which the famous Sierra Leone Weekly News was the most prominent. It was almost like a literary journal, though printed in the form of a newspaper. Sawyer’s Bookshop at Water Street also played a vital role as not only making wide selections of literary works from the Western world available, but in also publishing small pamphlets and little books from time to time.

At that time clubs flourished and many of them had literary activities as part of their program. Clubs like the City Literary Institute and Greenfield Club organized lectures and dramatic shows. The Greenfield Club was aimed particularly at promoting literary activities. The Eccentric Society (a Multiracial group) organized periodic “mind-uplifting concerts. However many of these clubs were short lived. According to historical analysts this was due to the majority of Krios lacking interest in self-improvement and disunity within the ranks of the upper level of Freetown society. This was limited to a few hundred people from whose ranks many of the other clubs drew their membership. With this sort of close-knitted society, personal disagreements were easily brought into these societies thus disrupting their harmony and causing their break up.


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