Art and design projects. With stories about the people, places and experiences that have shaped my

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sierra Leone, West Africa, 1974

Freetown in Blue

Tinguilinta in Red


I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1974. About 200 of us came over on a flight from Philadelphia. We stayed in the capitol, Freetown, to take language lessons and wait for our specific assignments. Sometimes - following in Graham Green's footsteps - we would go to the City Hotel for a beer. He wrote his first novel, The Heart of the Matter, in Freetown during WWII.

Fifteen year old prostitutes from Liberia would sit on the front porch of the City Hotel waiting for customers. Russian sailors stood at the bar having a drink. Uzi machine guns on their backs.

After Freetown we went inland to Bo for further instruction. We met a number of German families also living in a compound nearby. Everybody there kept a pet mongoose to keep the deadly 'two step' snakes (green mambas) at bay. Spitting cobras were common too.

The Abu Construction Company was rebuilding the road system in the entire country. The Chinese were rebuilding the rail lines. The United States provided the Peace Corps Volunteers. I traveled to Kenema by bus as I was supposed to eventually be posted at the Kenema Technical Institute. That town has lately been in the news as a center for Ebola treatment. 

Now, for the first time in forty years, I am printing the black and white negatives of photos taken there . They are the subjects for new paintings on paper. I took these photographs with a Topcon Super-D 35mm film camera. It had a fixed 50mm 1.4 lens. That used to be considered a 'normal' lens; closest to the view you see with your eye. In those days I used Kodak Tri-X 400 ASA film. The film was developed in a lab in Africa. Negatives have been stored in a box ever since.

 19" x 13" paintings:

Boy Under Grapefruit Tree

Bundu Dance

City Hotel


Boy Under Grapefruit Tree


City Hotel

Boys Rolling Tires in Green, Kenema, studio view.

A '60s postcard of Freetown. That's the City Hotel in the middle, behind the Texaco sign.

11" x 8 1/2" Paintings:

City Hotel, Freetown

Woodworking Class, Kenema

Launch to Tinguilinta at Anchor

'Head,' painted wood, H. 15", 2014.