From Nova Scotia to Freetown- 225 years of heritage observed
Awake, and sing the song
Of Moses and the Lamb
Wake, every heart and every tongue,
To praise the Savior’s Name
The hymn, “Moses and the Lamb” that the settlers sang when they got to the Cotton Tree more than two centuries ago sends chills down the spine of onlookers as pupils of St Joseph’s Primary School led by Commissioner Kitty Fadlu Deen render the song at the National Museum on Thursday 23rd March, 2017.
Like the historic hymn, the arrival of two modern Royal Canadian Navy ships, the HMCS Summerside and Moncton, on Sunday 19th March 2017 equally epitomizes the arrival of three ships, the Amy, the Harpy and the Lapwing in March 1792 in Freetown. However, many things have changed since the arrival of the Nova Scotians. Save for the church and few descendants, everything that reminds us of the existence of the Nova Scotians in Freetown had diminished.
The rich cultural heritage and historical records however remain intact. Since its resuscitation in 2014, Sierra Leone’s Monuments and Relics Commission has been working assiduously to revitalize the nation’s rich cultural heritage. The visitors from Nova Scotia could not have come at a more opportune time, when the city of Freetown is celebrating 225 years of existence.
From the decoration of the Captain of HMCS Summerside, Paul Smith with a Sierra Leonean outfit to the exchange of gifts between the Canadians and Sierra Leoneans, the event reconnects Halifax and Freetown. Such is the relevance of the visit that people of Nova Scotian descent from both Nova Scotia and Freetown were present. Notable among those present was Madam Cassandra Gerber who is a direct descendant of Nova Scotia. She performed the necessary rituals to the amazement of the visitors.
It was a moment of reminiscence and deep reflection as Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Sidie Yahya Tunis congratulated Canada on the 150th anniversary of their confederation whilst lamenting the harsh realities of life then.
At the Zion Methodist Church on Wilberforce Street in Freetown, the visitors from Nova Scotia worshipped with their descendants on this side. Founded by the Nova Scotian settlers in 1792, the Church’s edifice still occupies the space where it was over 200 years ago. Her Excellency, Heather Cameron, the Canadian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone remarked that “2017 is also the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, when 4 provinces, including Nova Scotia, voluntarily came together to found a country called Canada. In this 150th year, we are proud to celebrate Canada’s identity; our ethnic, linguistic, cultural and regional diversity; our beautiful environment; and our rich history and heritage.
In her welcome statement, Chairperson of the Monuments and Relics Commission, Madam Isatu Smith recounted the horrid ordeal that the settlers endured in their quest for emancipation and better living standards. “They endured profound suffering on their voyage here and about 40 of them died en route. But even before they decided to migrate to Sierra Leone we must not forget that their ancestors before them had endured slave raids, long marches overland caring heavy loads of trade goods on their heads, being bought and sold like cattle, being branded like cattle, and being held in slave forts like the one at Bunce Island. They had endured the treacherous middle passage, some dying and being fed to sharks, the others who survived being auctioned in slave marts in the Americas.”
The visit reawakes the rich historical ties and heritage that has always existed between Canada and Sierra Leone.
Personnel and crew of the two Canadian Ships are participating in Neptune Trident 17-01 and Obangame Express 2017. These are series of events aimed at improving the bilateral and multinational relationship between Canada and other nations.
Mohamed Faray Kargbo
Education and Outreach Officer
Monuments and Relics Commission
19You, Clifford K Thompson, Ann-Marie Kamara and 16 others