In 2017, a national disaster in Sierra Leone brought together Siana Bangura, Abu Yillah, and other Sierra Leonean creatives based in London, working hard to platform the creativity of young British Sierra Leoneans. Through a series of events called ‘Stand Up for Salone’, money was raised to benefit the victims of a devastating mudslide that claimed the lives of over 1000 people in Freetown. The programme included the first Sierra Leone Arts & Culture festival curated by Bangura and Yillah, with a team of volunteers including Makeda L. Cole. The success of the first festival, its fundraising efforts, and the community spirit built off the back of it inspired the team. It prompted the establishment of a small non-profit organisation, registered as a CIC, The Young Sierra Leonean, with a mission to showcase unsung cultural creatives of Sierra Leonean heritage in London and across the UK. The Young Sierra Leonean has continued the annual curation of the festival, bringing it under its umbrella of flagship events, including Krio Klas and Kip Kompin cinema.
After a short break, their renowned showcase returns in full swing to London in November for the 2023 edition, the FIFTH offering of SLACFest. This year, the festival will occur across two venues in two London boroughs. With its biggest and most ambitious programming to date and an estimated attendance of over 500 individuals, this two-day extravaganza will occur on Saturday, 4th November, and Sunday, 5th November at Brixton House in South London and Poplar Union in East London, respectively. This year’s festival themes are ‘Re-introduction’ and ‘Re-emergence,’ and the curatorial team aims to offer once again an intergenerational event that inspires, ignites, and entertains.
Let us introduce you to the extraordinary talents who have been instrumental in making Sierra Leone renowned for its vibrant culture and strong community spirit.
Siana Bangura’s Bio:
Siana Bangura is a writer, producer, performer, campaigner, and community organiser hailing from South East London, now living, working, and creating between London and the West Midlands. She is the founder and former editor of the Black British Feminist platform, No Fly on the WALL; author of the poetry collection, ‘Elephant’; and the producer of ‘1500 & Counting’, a documentary film investigating deaths in custody and police brutality in the UK, and founder of Courageous Films. Her recent works include the short film ‘Denim’ and the play, ‘Layila!’.
Siana is co-founder and co-curator of the Sierra Leone Arts & Culture Festival (#SLACfest), founded in 2017 to celebrate Sierra Leone’s rich culture and history.
With experience in indie publishing, journalism, and campaigns, Siana’s mission across her vast portfolio is to help move voices and experiences traditionally marginalised, from the margins, to the centre.
Abu B Yillahs’ Bio:
Abu B. Yillah is a British-Sierra Leonean interdisciplinary Artist and Cultural Curator, who utilises his passion for film and poetry creating poetic films not just for individuals, but also for established UK organisations. He has been commissioned by Safer London, Spread the Word, The Separated Child Foundation and Museum of London. In 2019, Abu produced two films in partnership with Write2SpeakUK, funded by the Arts Council England.
Alongside his creative work, Abu is a co-founder of Young Salone, and co-curates the Sierra Leone Arts & Culture festival (#SLACfest), a celebration of work from Sierra Leoneans all over the world, which aims to increase the visibility of Sierra Leoneans in the U.K. & beyond.
More at @AbuBYillah
Makeda L. Cole’s Bio:
Makeda L. Cole is a British-Sierra Leonean event producer by night, and a corporate professional by day. She is energised by a drive for weaving harmonious connections and inspiring thought-provoking conversations through curating art-based events. Makeda co-founded The Young Sierra Leonean and was a co-curator of SLACfest from 2018 to 2020.
Makeda holds a Masters Degree in Organisational Psychology and is currently working on the trailblazing fashion brand Kole (@kolekokohq), that aims to partner with Sierra Leonean artisans to repurpose existing materials into timeless bags – aligning with the circular economy.
More at: Makeda L. Cole
Connect with Siana, Abu, and Makeda and the fifth edition of the Sierra Leone Arts & Culture Festival on 4-5 November 2023. Vendors and sponsors are now wanted!