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‘To Mommy, with Love’

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Happy birthday, Sidney Poitier. If my father were alive, he’d be a week shy of his 92nd born day. May he continue to rest in peace. 

As a line in the old song goes: 'I never knew YOU at all' but I was six years old when I saw "To Sir, with Love" at the Roxy Cinema on Walpole. See, my Mom worked as a typist in the Roxy, so she got discounts on documentaries and live shows featuring the Afro National band with hits such as  “Temedi” (Happiness). 

Poitier’s eyes in one of the best movies of the sixties are as memorable as National’s songs. 

A steely glance held up in a ramrod suit, Poitier played a young, gifted and black engineer who took up teaching in the Docklands, where decades later my mom (who just turned 81) would live briefly during the war in Sierra Leone.  

I’ve watched a lot of movies with engineers. Most recently, “Regina the Engineer,” a Nigerian tearjerker about overcoming life’s hurdles and challenges; old Hollywood cultural staples like "October Sky&qu…

Vitabu features the memorable sixth chapter of Bakar Mansaray's new book

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Bakar Mansaray, the founder of the Mandingo Scrolls blog and winner of the 2017 Writer-of-the-Year, Afro-Canadian Heroes Award, is known for his riveting short stories and tales of life in his native Sierra Leone. In his new book, My Afro-Canadian Chronicle, published by Sierra Leonean Writers Series, the author sheds a personal light on the devastating effects of underdevelopment on a country that went through one of the most atrocious civil wars in modern history.

"For those who have read books of literature, history and anthropology from Sierra Leone and yet harbour the sinking feeling that there had to be a missing link between narratives, Bakar’s book provides that missing link to complete the national narrative," writes novelist and poet Oumar Farouk Sesay in the Foreword.

"This autobiography is a portrait painted on a canvas of memory in vivid and sometimes dark hues, telling a story only a mind as lucid as the author’s can tell.

This excerpt was used with permissio…

"The Lord is with us in every direction we go"

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The Hebrew inscriptions testify to the great part Jews played in opening up trade all along the coast of Sierra Leone during the last century. H. B. Levi, for instance, whom the epidemic also swept away, and his brother John, whom it spared, were well established in business in Freetown by 1859.

Nathaniel Isaacs, a Jew from Canterbury, had a large trading establishment on Matacong Island-now part of French Guinea-with an agent, Emmanuel Lyons, in Wilberforce Street.

Nathaniel Nathan settled in what was still the Sherbro village of Bonthe in the early 1850s; there is still a monument to his little daughter in the old cemetery in Claffin Lane, Bonthe.

Further south two Jewish brothers, John and Nathan Harris, started trading at Sulima; it was largely their efforts that prevented the British government from giving all the land south of the Sherbro to Liberia.

Reprinted from Sierra Leone Studies, NS, No 2 | By C.H. Fyfe




Purple Rain by Damilola Fasuba

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I am Kamal Anisiobi, writing from West Africa. Oluwadamilola Fasuba is someone I call my friend. We met 4 years ago via Instagram. I am proud of her determined, hardworking, no-nonsense attitude. Oluwadamilola (Dami for short) is a 22-year-old writer/novelist who lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

Writing has always been her passion. Her role model is the great Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and she aspires to be as good as her in the future. Shine on Dami!

Already on her second book, Purple Rain is a generational love story, which runs from the matriarch Agnes down to Kikelomo, her granddaughter.

"Although I have written many stories," Dami said, "I realized that I've never touched on the topic of love. This is because love has many depths and cannot be constrained to a single story.

"Purple Rain is a collection of my thoughts and ideas," she says. "I believe it will touch the heart of anyone who reads it. I believe love is a universal language and we all speak it …

2018 Caine Prize

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The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony and dinner on Monday, July 2 2018. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

Joining Dinaw Mengestu on the 2018 judging panel are Henrietta Rose-Innes, South African author and winner of the 2008 Caine Prize; Lola Shoneyin, award-winning author and director of the Ake Arts and Books Festival; and Ahmed Rajab, a Zanzibar-born journalist, political analyst and essayist.

The Caine Prize is named after the late Michael Caine, former chairman of Booker plc and chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years.

The Prize is awarded for a short story by an African writer published in English (length 3,000 to 10,000 words).

An African writer is taken to mean someone who was born in Africa, or who is a national of an African country, or who has a parent who is African by birth or nationality.

Previous winners include Sierra Leonean Olufemi Terry (2010), Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Nigerian…

World Book Day 2018

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It's World Book and Copyright Day, the global celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading. Ever wondered why the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) chose April 23 as the day to celebrate books?

"On 23 April 1616, two giants of world literature died, two precursors whose work would revolutionize the way fiction was conceived and written: Cervantes and Shakespeare. This coincidence is why 23 April was chosen to be World Book and Copyright Day," writes Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General in her 2018 Message on World Book and Copyright Day

To mark the occasion each year on 23 April, UNESCO and international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry - publishers, booksellers, and libraries, select a city as the World Book Capital until 23 April of the following year.

Conakry, Guinea was UNESCO World Book Capital City April 23, 2017- April 22, 2018.

From April 23, 2018, to April 22, 2019, …

Pre-Election 411: Red, Green, Blue, and Happiness

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The  March 7 election in Sierra Leone is definitely one event Sierra Leoneans are watching for in the first half of 2018.

While there's probably nothing more important than who gets to rule the small West African nation for the next five years, there's something else that will hit the Richter scale.

Aminatta Forna's newest novel will launch March 2018 in the United States (Atlantic Monthly Press). For readers in Britain, the book will be available in  April from Bloomsbury UK.

Aminatta was born in Scotland, raised in Sierra Leone and Britain. She is the award-winning author of the novels The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones, and a memoir The Devil that Danced on the Water.

The Times of London calls Aminatta "an unsparing chronicler of human vices."

Happiness, her new novel, is about how a chance meeting of Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, on Waterloo Bridge, London, span out and interweave, br…