The Maambena Fest Literacy and Cultural Festival founded in 2011 by Usifu Jalloh under the flagship of the Aruna Jalloh foundation is the only festival in Sierra Leone that prides itself in celebrating both literacy and culture on the same platform. For the past three years
the festival has been working on the goal of reviving the Sella cultural and traditional art forms in various communities across the Sella Chiefdom in Northern Sierra Leone.
Every year, the festival attracts over 2000 participants of Sierra Leoneans as well as tourists vising Sierra Leone and it is fast becoming the highlight of the year for the people of Kamakwie where the festival is hosted. In keeping with strategy of self-development and stimulating local economy, the theme for this year’s Maambena Fest is “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat”. During the festival various art forms, traditional food, locally grown crops, traditional music instruments, and traditional dresses are displayed around an open field on the last day of the festival where visitors can shop, eat, dance and mingle among the locals. Various traditional dancers came across Sella Chiefdom to grace the festival.
According to the founder of Maambena Fest Mr. Usifu Jalloh, the festival is not just a platform for dancing and singing but also an event which creates opportunities for reviving Sierra Leonean traditions and culture that have been forgotten centuries back. Being the founder of Africa’s CowFoot (a music and storytelling event based in the United Kingdom), he wants to help create opportunities for African culture and traditions to be recognized around the world and in so doing, he has achieved greatly especially with the recent collaboration with some Italians in reproducing the “Kongoma” in a better form so that the instruments can be marketed and can be used as a major instrument in the production of music around the world.
Maambena Fest 2015 is being titled “Maambena 100” which is aimed at bringing one hundred of the best drummers around the world in Sierra Leone to officially launch the Maambena Festival in the country. The Maambena 100 will begin performances in Freetown for two days where drummers will do various performances across the streets and in other venues before finally being taken to the host community in Kamakwie. The festival is set to be hosted in April of every year with the final day on April 27th which is also the country’s Independence Day.
*The word “Maambena” is a Limba word meaning “We greet you”.
*The “Kongoma” is a local music instrument made from Calabash which is used for storytelling, musical performances, singing praises to Kings and queens, etc. It is widely used across West Africa and is known in some countries as the “Kora”. The Kongoma is among the few musical instruments that is used to produce all kinds of sounds and rhythms during musical performances or studio production.
Some more photos here: