By Chief Boima
I’ve been following Sierra Leonean Vickie Remoe’s lifestyle and culture blog Swit Salone for a few years now. Blogging from Freetown since 2007, Vickie has been a consistent source of information via the web for what’s happening on the ground in Sierra Leone. She set out with the purpose to expand Sierra Leone’s presence on the web, which at the time was generally focused on the views of expats in the country. She shares a refreshing perspective and in my opinion has done quite well in reaching her goal.
Since starting the blog Vickie has branched off into various endeavors gathering an international following in the process. The above clip, an interview with virtuosic Sierra Leonean musician Sorie Kondi, is from her online and broadcast TV lifestyle show, The Vickie Remoe Show.
While they seem benign and sometimes frankly boring (of course not Vickie’s), lifestyle shows are interesting social barometers. In a country where the current government has set up an Office of Diaspora Affairs, the existence of a lifestyle show with an international reach becomes an important political statement.
There are several ways Vickie’s, and similar projects in Sierra Leone that use technology and media as tools to promote local cultures and perspectives, have tangible social and political implications. First, in a recent post Vickie stated that at a local level “entertainment has played [an important role] in youth development since the end of the civil war.” And the show’s content is often directly aimed at youth social issues. Second, as a returnee, Vickie functions as a cultural bridge between homeland and diaspora. I quite enjoy her yearly “Switlist” social guide which is full of advice for JC’s on how to survive in Freetown after they’ve become so used to the “comforts” of the West. The promotion of Sierra Leone as a livable place for a Westernized diaspora, helps to promote investment from that diaspora. Third, there is a small (but growing?) population of African-Americans who through DNA testing have been granted Sierra Leonean citizenship. Vickie’s efforts may entice more to explore this possibility, and serves as a guide for those potential tourists or repatriates on what to expect when arriving for the first time. And lastly, it can’t hurt to promote Sierra Leone in any positive light especially since the overwhelming majority of international media’s attention has been negative. As an uncle of mine said after the movie Blood Diamond came out: “Now everyone thinks that’s all there is in Sierra Leone.”
Inevitably, those debates about perspective, identity, authenticity, and even citizenship come up, and Vickie often directly addresses them on the blog. For good or for bad, these are the types of debates that arise during the process of re-building a nation, and they deserve attention. We’re still waiting for that book to come out though, so in the meantime keep an eye out for more episodes from the Vickie Remoe show, “the biggest sweet mot na Salone.”