SWEET SALONE: PORTRAITS FROM CONTEMPORARY SIERRA LEONE
What comes to mind when you think of Sierra Leone?
Most people will immediately think of the country’s civil war that raged throughout the 1990’s and recall the harrowing images of child soldiers and amputee victims. This conflict ended over a decade ago, yet we are still stuck with snapshots from this sad chapter in Sierra Leone’s history.
Today the story is very different. If you walk through the bustling streets of Freetown, or spend an afternoon on one of the peninsula’s stunning beaches, the atmosphere that pervades is one of welcoming chaos and a certain joie de vivre. Sierra Leone, once West Africa’s most prosperous region, is now coming into its own again.
All the individuals that I met, befriended and photographed were working towards a brighter future for their country. Education and entrepreneurialism are valued highly in their culture and consequently there is a real feeling of progress and optimism in the air. That is not to say that life for your average Sierra Leonean is easy; the country is ranked as the 8th lowest on the UN’s Human Development Index and 7th lowest on its Human Poverty Index. While these figures represent a stark reality they should not define Sierra Leone. Aid is still needed, but it is certainly not the only solution in helping the region. What Sierra Leone now needs is foreign investment, further infrastructure and sustainable tourism.
And most importantly if Sierra Leone is to grow and develop then it is
crucial that people’s perceptions of the country are changed.