Freetown, Baby!

Serra Lyoa by jc2010sl
May 23, 2010, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

It was the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Cintra who gave Sierra Leone it’s name. Passing the peninsular hills on his ship he called them the “Serra Lyoa”, or Lion Mountains. No one’s sure exactly why, but suppositions abound. One theory is that the tropical thunderstorms sound like a lion roaring, another is that the mountains resemble a lion lying down. Most prosaically, some claim that in de Cintra’s day lions roamed the coastline.

These days at least, lions are pretty uncommon. In the last decade there has been 1 recorded lion in Sierra Leone, far from the coast near the Guinean border. It terrorised a village until a hunter tracked and killed it, earning himself national fame and an audience with the then President.

As a national symbol though, the lion is ubiquitous. All over town, patriotic Salones have small statues on their walls and over their gates. Here are some that I pass on my way to work:

The man with this lion on his porch proudly showed me a photo of the craftsman who’d made made it working on the National Armed Forces Memorial.

This rather deformed looking offering sits above the entrance to a grocer’s store.

The Red Lion of Campbell Street is the most well-known in Freetown.

State House has by far the grandest lion in the city, recently re-painted for the 49th Anniversary Celebrations.

If old Pedro came back he’d have another reason now to call the place Lion Mountain.


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