Visiting Sierra Leone offers you a great opportunity to fill your suitcase with the cutest little wristbands, shell-lined beach ‘lappa’ and tie-dyed bedspreads. One of the best places to get all these knick knacks in Freetown is Big Market, an absolute valhalla for your gift-shopping and a great opportunity to support the community and their families.
“Big Markit” is located on Wallace Johnson street, which is right at the historic centre of Freetown. The Cotton Tree is only a ten-minutes walk away, and opposite of the market you find NASSIT in what used to be a slave trade centre.
The market has an interesting history as well. Before the war it was a general market, but when the rebels came to Freetown during the January 6th Invasion of 1999 they burned down the market and everything that was in it. As the government rebuilt the market they decided to make it an arts and crafts market that would have tourists as the main clients. They approached come sellers that were then stationed at Victoria park and reopened it as the Big Market it is now.
All the sellers have either made the products they sell themselves, or are selling crafts that were made in the provinces. You can find hand-woven baskets, traditional country cloth, bracelets and necklaces in all colours and materials, tie-died beadspreads, leather sandals and bags, to name just a few.
It can sometimes be overwhelming entering the market as the sellers will approach you with pleading, “buy from me, come and look!”. Remember that the money you spend at the market will go towards supporting these people, their families and the rich traditions that are behind creating these items.
Ready to buy some tribal masks, hand-woven cloth or cow horn bracelets? Remember that the first price the sellers give you is never the last price. Negotiate with a smile and try to get towards an agreement that respects both you and the seller. Guaranteed that you will leave the market with some priceless items. For some tips on how to bargain, read the article ‘Become a negotiating pro’.
Mon- Sat from 9am- 6pm
Wallace Johnson street
How to get there:
Get a private vehicle through VSL or take public transport into town. Anywhere near the Cotton Tree will do. A private vehicle is recommended, especially if you end up buying bags full of souvenirs.
An alternative arts market is the Lumley Arts and Crafts Market