Sierra Leone: Madegn with Love

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 While I am an early adapter, I am also, a skeptic by nature. I don’t just say ‘good’ to jump on a bandwagon nor do i believe in applauding mediocrity. So it is with utmost excitement and love that a send a big hearty congratulations to the Madegn Association for an amazing job well done for the 2010/11 Madegn Beach Festival!!!!
Two years ago, a group of returned citizens many of whom I know personally and are happy to call friends came together and formed an association called Madegn. They hoped that a beach festival would spearhead a cultural renaissance in Sierra Leone.
Many of the critics, my self included said it was impossible. That a group of JCs/diasporans lacked the legitimacy to put on a cultural festival and while some might still be on this debate, I am happy to report that after this past festival, I am converted.
It has been a long time coming that Sierra Leoneans have been starved for real value for money entertainment and an appropriate showcase for the various lost and unappreciated aspects of Salone life and culture.

I went to the festival on New Year’s Day with enough time to catch up with friends and family in town on holidays. Day 2 of the Madegn Festival opened with a group of ‘jollay’ traditional masquerade dancers and players who slowly ‘sheeray’d’ to the area below the stage. Dressed in shiny, pretty colors of pink, green, and gold, they performed the familiar sounds of Salone gumbay shake waist music, and those of us blessed with the beat in our feet, stood in place and shook our hips, thanking our ancestors, for having past on the essence of the rhythms.

Of the ‘jollay’ performance my favorite was the courtship between the female golden and ‘tumbalicious debul’ refusing the advances of her male counterpart, even though she was clearly shaking it to get his attention. The debul, much like many of us Salone gyals, that get made starved for attention, we bluff when we get it. Amazingly, for many of the children and adults present this is one of the rare occasions that they can witness this display of traditional masquerade without fear or apprehension.

As they danced off, the crowd was thrilled to welcome a performance from the ever brilliant National Dance Troope; musicians, singers, dancers, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats, and masters of the dark arts. One such performer was the sand eater who made the squeamish turn away, as he gobbled the sand with both hands as though he were eating couscous only to hit his stomach turn around to defecate the sand back into his hands.

Not to be out performed, the flame thrower after the usual show of drinking what I assume was petrol and blowing fire out into the crowd, repeatedly put the lit torch into his under pants. Never one to shy away from a good show, I tried to get a snap of it, and got close enough to feel the warmth of the fire.
The night continued with nothing but the best, including a live musical performance from Free Radio DJ turned rapper Bassem Ayoub aka Mr. B featuring Alex Fakondo aka Lex Bubble.

The highlight of the entire day’s festivities however, was the parade of beauties and talent by Sierra Leone’s four major fashion brands all led by beautiful innovative young women with diverse perspectives on the Sierra Leonean/African aesthetic (Swank Couture by Jenneh Amara Bangalie, Bico Designs by Isata Kabia, Madam Wokie’s Couture by Mary-Anne KaiKai and finally Aschobi designs by my friend Adama Sallie Kargbo). The crowd flooded the stage area, pulling out phones, and cameras to capture the moment or if you are yours truly to corner the designer and ask for the piece later. In between the defile of each of the designs, children in the audience were invited to the stage to dance; we definitely saw a couple budding Michael Jacksons and Beyonces.

By the time I left Madegn, my heart was spilling over with pride, appreciation, and above all love. Mahawa, Yeniva, Sinky, Bimbola, Ami, Alex, Brian, Ash, Manja and all the members of Madegn have successfully established an created a cultural institution. With enough support from the right sponsors, and or perhaps the government Madegn can as intended manage to bring Sierra Leoneans and tourists to Freetown every year. While coming home for the holidays used to be simply about ostentatious displays of material wealth, JCs can now look forward to coming home to celebrate Sierra Leone culture, support local industry, build relationships over the 2day festival and most importantly Madegn with Love.
Madegn means ‘Let’s Meet’!
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