Sierra Leone: People-to-People
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

  Dispatch 6 - Mondema  

Makali-MONDEMA (45km, 28mi) Near the notorious “Blood Diamond” region.  Fortunately peace has returned.

Points of interest: Kangari Hills Forest Reserve, Mondema has a Friday market day.

Cycling conditions: mixed surface, rolling


Makali-Masingbi road The further we went on the main road the more it deteriorated.  It was still pretty good for bicycling., For the few motor vehicle we saw, the de-constructing pavement served as very effective "traffic calming."  It seemed to be particular effective on some big trucks that had to slow down so much that it was possible and practical to pass them on the bicycle.


Masingbi-Mondema road After Masingbi we turned another corner and headed for smaller roads.  These had the advantage of being narrower.  Often there were trees nearly up to the edge of the road, and sometimes the canopy extended over the top of the road.  Even with the additional shade the heat and humidity still built up and not long after midday a siesta was very welcome.


Mondema, Sierra Leone, weekly market Our timing and siesta selection coincided with the weekly market in Mondema.  It was too hot in the sun for us so we mostly stayed planted and watched from a shady refuge on the sidelines.  All afternoon shoppers passed by inspecting the wares for sale.  There is a section of the market for food.  Each clothing sellers seemed to specialize in one type of apparel;  dresses, shirts, blue jeans, lingerie, sport jackets, etc.  I was having trouble figuring out why someone would want blue jeans or a sports jacket in this climate, but in just goes to show you that fashion decisions are not necessary any more logical in Sierra Leone than they are in other parts of the world.

The weekly market is an interesting cultural, social and economic event with divergent qualities of efficiency and inefficiency:  For some the market day is a very high functioning affair and for others it is a distraction and/or over-stimulating. 

On market day there is an intensity of activity.  It is not just about selling, but families meet and friendships are made and strengthen and politics and community organization developed.  For the rest of the week the market area can be a ghost town of empty, sun bleached, market stall frames and large areas of packed bare soil. 

For the local merchant, market day is the day it all happens, but if they aren't in the position to travel daily to weekly markets in surrounding communities, the next six days are underutilized and the price they pay for the hope of selling at the next weekly market.  If you are not a merchant, say a school teacher, market day disrupts the routine.  It is hard to knock the excitement and economic-cultural-social importance of the event, but the return to normalcy of the rest of the week is cherish for its opportunities to be calm, focused and productive.

Mondema has a bit of additional interest because it is where the territories of the Temne, Mende, Kono and Koranko peoples converge.  It is not unusual for big towns and cities, and regions that draw labor (like the diamond, gold, oil palm, rubber and other extraction and agricultural industries) to be multi-ethnic, but villages are more likely to be more homogeneous.  The Temne and Mende are the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone.  It should also be noted that ethnic groups don't have precise territories with defined boundaries.  Village of different ethnicity often alternate near the 'edges' of the groups home area.

It is also interesting that nearby is a village that is central in the continued practice of traditional religion -- is has elements of animism, shamanism and totemism.  (Note: the helmet mask in the left side bar is from the Bundu (a.k.a Sandi) Society (women's group) of the traditional religion.)




 Next dispatch.



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