Exploring Sierra Leone

The Respective Journeys of Ken and Megan Through "From The Same Cloth"

Tonight’s blog will examine the respective African journey’s of Ken and Megan through Fault Line’s latest project, From the Same Cloth. When Ken received his Peace Corps posting he was stationed in Segbwema, a major agricultural and trading center in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone. As you can see from the map below, Segbwema is located northeast of the Provincial capital of Kenema in the southeastern portion of the country. The Mendes are the dominant ethnic group in this region, but Ken found that due to the commercial nature of Segbwema, its inhabitants primarily spoke English and Creole, the common market language between the surrounding tribes. Ken wanted to completely immerse himself in the Mende language and culture, so he moved to the tiny village of Pendembu Djegbla, where they spoke only Mende. Unfortunately, Pendembu Djegbla is so small that it doesn’t appear on our map, and according to Megan, is so small that it mostly likely never appeared on any map. Although a few modern towns in Sierra Leone bear the name Pendembu, we assume that Ken’s village was located somewhere in the outskirts of Segbwema.

Megan’s journey began in Teshie, a town just east of the Ghanian capital of Accra. This region is inhabited by the Ga people. A fascinating Ga custom is the construction of “fantasy coffins” when a loved one passes away. These untraditional coffins are constructed to reflect the personality of the deceased and serve as a vehicle to mourn their death and celebrate their journey to the afterlife. Some examples of these coffins can be found here.

Megan felt the need to escape the anglican lifestyle she was living in Teshie and headed northwest to the village of Ekumfi Atakwa in search of a more immersive African experience. As we learn from the play, she met similar dissatisfaction in her new destination.

Once Ken joined Megan, they first traveled to Ada, a small city in southeastern Ghana at the mouth of the Volta River. Ada was once a major trading hub when the Volta was used to transport goods, but now it is primarily a popular tourist destination known for its beaches and water sports. Ken and Megan then flew to Tamale in northern Ghana and spent time in Mole National Park. Although not directly indicated on the map, Mole National Park is the region west of Tamale that surrounds the Mole River. Western Africa isn’t famous for its wildlife like the southern portion of the continent, but Mole National Park is a rare exception. It is Ghana’s largest wildlife reserve and home to a resident population of 800 elephants.

It is imperative to note that the landscape of Western Africa changed dramatically in the years between Ken’s Peace Corps assignment in the 1970s and Megan’s trip in the early 2000s. Sierra Leone was ravaged by a civil war that tore families apart, left over 50,000 dead, and wiped out many villages, including Pendembu Djegbla. Many charitable organizations throughout the world have dedicated themselves to providing aid to Sierra Leone, and the links below offer some insight to the type of work being done:

OneVillage Partners

Street Child of Sierra Leone

Megan is also involved with the Theatre Arts Against Political Violence program, which is part of the International Trauma Studies Program at Columbia University. Theatre Arts Against Political Violence is “a community arts project using theatrical performance to provide a public space for testimony, witnessing, and conversation.” More information about the program can be found here.