The rains have disappeared, the invitations sent out, and the Bottom Mango roundabout has been decorated with a Christmas tree installation wishing us happy holidays. It can only mean one thing: December has come. With the arrival of plenty diaspora Sierra Leoneans and tourists, the country is busy showing off all its good sides. Parties, cultural festivals, excursions and what not are advertised everywhere, dazzling each and everyone with promises of not-to-miss experiences. Overwhelmed? Visit Sierra Leone is here to make things easy for you. We have highlighted a mix of programmes we believe are worthwhile. There is something for every type of visitor (or local), whether a party hardy or an island hopper, this December is one not to forget.

Dance to our culture – Ma Dengn Cultural Festival

If you want to know what’s happening in the contemporary music scene whilst experiencing a wide range of traditional arts and performances, check out the Ma Dengn Festival in Freetown. It’s a weekend full of music, food, fashion, dance and party vibes celebrating Sierra Leonean culture. Ma Dengn is one of the biggest events of the year and usually showcases the most popular acts. This year Bridge Project, a collective of young creatives, is opening the festival on both days. Last year this included fire dancers and a bubu parade, let’s see what happens this year.

Where: Radisson Blu Garden, Aberdeen, Freetown
When: 15-16 December 2018
Price: 35.000SLL for regular ticket

The art of the word; spoken word, poetry and storytelling

A new wave has hit town; spoken word poetry events are popping up everywhere. Some are open podium style with new talents trying to impress the audience. Some are showcasing more established writers and poets. One of the most interesting performances must be those done by traditional storytellers. It is often a combination of bata drumming, singing, dancing and captivating orations that move the audience to laughing fits and enthusiastic hooting.

The Village is a spoken word and poetry night held at a popular bar on the 22nd of December. Tickets are 50,000 regular and 150,000VIP. Location: O’Casey’s Blues Bar, Lumley Beach Road.

On the 24th of December, the Miatta Conference Hall hosts the National Storytelling Festival from 4pm onwards. Tickets are 20,000 regular, 50,000 Patron and 150,000 for VIP.

Where: O’Casey’s Blues Bar, Lumley Beach Road.
When: 7-9 December 2018
Price: Free entry

The Barray exhibition: Re-Imagining, Challenging the Dominant Narrative

The Barray is a collective of contemporary visual artists who have been shaking the Freetown art scene for a couple of years now. They host exhibitions in different venues twice a year, showcasing pieces that urge the viewer to rethink cultural and personal views. Expect to see a mix of sketches, oil paints, batiks, collages and sculptures that set you off thinking in odd directions.

Where: O’Casey’s Beach Bar, Aberdeen, Freetown
When: 7-9 December 2018
Price: Free entry

Tangains Festival at the National Stadium

There are surprisingly few sportsmatches held at the National Stadium. Christian worshipping events, Friday prayers for Muslims and music shows tend to dominate the calendar. In December, Stadium becomes even less of a sports stadium with the Tangains Festival. Every day visitors can come and shop, dance, drink, eat, watch beauty pageants and dance competitions and flaunt their December outfits. The theme of this year is ‘Ar Lek Salone,’ which, as you might have guessed means I like Sierra Leone.

Where: National Stadium, Freetown
When: 1-31 December 2018
Price: 5,000

Traditional wrestling matches

New to the scene are wrestling matches on the beach. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday scantily clothed men show off their strength with the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. The wrestling teams represent communities from all over the peninsula. As these matches are held during the day and held in front of the gelato-and-pizza-Valhalla Gigibontà, you can enjoy the matches whilst downing a proper affogato with an extra shot of espresso.

Where: Gigibontà, Lumley Beach Road
When: Fridays (8pm), Saturdays and Sundays (4pm) during the whole of December
Price: Free

Yoga Retreat at Tacugama

We have highlighted quite a lot of cultural activities, so this one is for those who want to escape the hectic city and immerse themselves in calming greenery. The Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, in itself an invigorating space, is holding a recharge retreat on the 15th and 16th of December. This retreat includes yin yoga classes, meditation, a walk through the rainforest and a tour of the sanctuary. The classes are taught by the amazing yogi Julia Emes, whose classes are always well designed and given with care.

Where: Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary
When: December 15th-16th
Price: 100$ per person, including night in ecolodge, meals and retreat