New Internationalist

Happy anniversary!

Today, 27 April, Sierra Leone celebrates its 50th independence anniversary. To mark the occasion, the Freetown chapter of the British Council is hosting an exhibition of 50 restored photographs that present a pictorial history of the past five decades. However, if you’re not in Freetown, then you can still check out some extraordinary historic postcards digitally restored by photographer Peter C Andersen. Andersen came across these postcards when he met ex-Peace Corps volunteer Gary Schulze, who had worked in Sierra Leone. He has digitally restored and scanned over 500 photographs and posted them on his website.

I asked Peter what prompted him to take up this pet project. ‘Simply because I have the editing software and I can do it; some of the pictures had rips and tears that I could fix, so I made it a project,’ he says. Peter is also the chief of outreach at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown.

Here are a few pieces from the wide selection on his site.  

Big Market

Freetown’s Big Market was burnt down in 1999 during the 6 January rebel attack on Freetown. It was rebuilt after the war ended at its location on Wallace Johnson Street in Central Freetown. The Big Market is the vibrant meeting ground for traders and eager shoppers looking for a good bargain on West African crafts.

Railway

This is a long-lost sight in Sierra Leone. The railway no longer exists but recently mining company African Minerals renovated a small stretch to transport their material around the country. According to a local media report, it’s been 38 years since the country had a railway.

Ginger beer sellers


This is a quintessential Freetown shot and shows a group of young children selling bottles of ginger beer on the streets. Even today, this is a familiar sight; the only difference is, instead of selling it in glass bottles, they now recycle plastic soft-drink bottles.

Kissy Road


This is an idyllic shot of Kissy Road in eastern Freetown, showing what seems to be a quiet day in town. Today this is one of the busiest trading hubs in the city with traffic backed up for miles.

Madam Yoko


Sierra Leone is often criticized for the poor status accorded to women in society. This postcard shows an image of Madam Yoko, a powerful paramount chief of the Mende tribe who ruled until 1906. She was hailed as a visionary chief and was popular with the British rulers at the time.

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