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Sierra Leone

6 August 1607

Arrived in Sierra Leone. It is a very beautiful country, though it rains a lot, much like back home. The people who live here are called the Temne (pronounced "Tim-in-ee"). Their kings do not wear crowns but instead hold a beautiful carved staff. They also have rituals and ceremonies wearing very bright and intimidating masks and costumes. Our translators tell us that the Temne are one of the only groups in all of Africa where women wear the masks as well as men, in certain groups which they call secret societies.

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19th century drawing of houses in Sierra Leone

Houses at Sierra Leone

Many of the people here have become Christians because the Portuguese have had a mission here for several years. One of the missionaries told me this story about the Temne King Buré when a Dutch or French ship arrived: 

“When a foreign ship came to Buré’s chief port this year, he learned from those who had been to identify it that the foreigners were heretics and that the goods they carried had been stolen from the Portuguese. He dissimulated with them and allowed them to land, but at the very moment that they proposed to return aboard he attacked them with his men, leading them without fear of the muskets and other arms they had. And although some pirates escaped badly wounded, the others paid for their wicked deeds with their lives.”

 

Ship's boy
 

Sources

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Portuguese mission journals, as quoted by P.E.H. Hair in the Article “Hamlet in an Afro-Portuguese Setting”

Anon. 1853: Houses at Sierra-Leone