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.


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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  1. #1 anoop shah 29 Apr 11

    Sulakshana, you had nice collection of sierra leone . Good job.

    Best of Luck

  2. #2 amy jane 10 Jul 11

    This is a nice page; pictures and short comments to interest a fleeting viewer (knowing nothing of the place) - links to further articles at the side.
    Having stopped my subscription some time ago, as I never got round to reading the long articles, beyond looking at the pictures, I will check out more often the web version in future.

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About the author

Sulakshana Gupta a New Internationalist contributor

Sulakshana Gupta is a journalist currently based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She manages media development projects for the BBC World Service Trust focusing on governance and human rights and in her spare time travels around the world. The opinions expressed in this blog are her own and do not reflect the views of her employer.

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