Thursday, December 2, 2021

WHAT'S A TROPICAL CHRISTMAS LIKE?


 WHAT'S A TROPICAL CHISTMAS LIKE? Here's one answer

Lucille and Darrell Reeck

12/2/2021

 

We love Sierra Leone, a culturally rich, though economically poor, country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa. Darrell had visited West Africa in 1960 with a college buddy and was intrigued by the people he met, their celebrations, their ways of life. Lucy and Darrell married in Salem and then, in 1968, returned to Sierra Leone for several months of Darrell’s doctoral dissertation research on American mission activity as it had affected African village life.

 

Starting in September, we lived In Freetown, the capitol, for several weeks while Darrell research archival records at Fourah Bay College. Late fall, we moved up-country for field work.  We spent Christmas week as guests of Esther Megill. She, an American missionary nurse, was a great friend of Honoria Bailor-Caulker, a Paramount Chief. Honoria's coastal chiefdom surrounded the Atlantic beach town, Shenge. Honoria welcomed us with open arms because we were friends of Esther. This personal connection was our key to open the door of the town.

 From Shenge-town we walked amid grass-covered dunes on the Atlantic shore. From a tall dune we spotted an off-shore island. We learned later that slave traders had developed that very island as a depot for slave trading over a century earlier.  The island gained fame one day when a cargo of slaves overpowered the armed crew of a slave-ship and forced a return to dry land. Sengbe, a slave himself, led the revolt. Once ashore near Shenge, the slaves returned by jungle path to their homes in the interior of the colony. This story reached the U.S., where Joseph Gomer, a young African-American pastor in Ohio, heard it. Sengbe became the young man’s hero. Ultimately, the United Brethren in Christ appointed Joseph and his spouse to Sierra Leone in 1890 as missionaries. The Gomers opened the Shenge station. Thus, the Shenge mission station (school and church) had its own aura and history.

(The slave revolt was featured in the 1997 film, "Amistad.") 

Our Christmas meal in 1968 was uniquely African. The menu included savory joliffe rice with chicken and goat meat plus delicious oranges. The food  was a gift of Honoria, the Paramount Chief, herself. Her fluency in English enabled her graciously to welcome us to the chiefdom. She assured us of our safety there and entertained us with stories of previous missionaries.  She also recounted with gratitude many stories of Shenge school children, educated in the mission school.

 During the meal, a crowd of school-kids gathered outside the mission house to see us, the American visitors, and to sing for us. These kids were dressed in Western-style clothing, presumably gleaned from missionary barrels: cloth shirts and and or short pants (boys) and calico dresses (girls). One tall, thin boy wore African “devil” garb.  From his collar to the top of head, his dark skin and hair was totally covered with white makeup. This devil costume even included a pair of floppy white ears. The kids enthusiastically sang  Christmas carols for us. We listened from the porch and waved our thanks at the end of the concert.  

 In a couple of days we returned to our base in the inland town of Taiama. There we continued to live among and learn much from Africans, joining in their traditional celebrations and interviewing them concerning their interactions with American missionaries. In June we returned to the U.S.  Our time in Sierra Leone made it a place we remember and love.  Eventually, back in the U.S., Darrell was awarded a doctorate by Boston University, based on his research in Sierra Leone.

 

P.S. Friends, thanks for reading at "Growing Green" blogsite. You’re invited to visit www.darrellreeck.com to read Darrell’s brief weekly as well as book-length posts. .  Happy holidays!

Labels: , , , , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home