Artist's Statement

Joshua Berman

Mama Salone came to me in the vision of a dream late one night in the summer of 1997. Her call beckons those of us who visit from the outside in a myriad of ways, her spirit deeply enchanting. This photo-documentary project is presented through the lens of a travel memoir wrapped around vignettes of individuals, communities, and organizations whose impact color a historically challenged and troubled, yet beautiful and resilient land.

These vignettes include children coming-of-age in a coastal fishing town; a young man fighting for his education in the midst of an impoverished life affected by the ravages of civil war; a brilliant documentary filmmaker who steered her creativity into helping empower the development of the country’s top schools from literal rubble; a group of native surfing pioneers whose drive and personalities landed on the big screen around the globe; a health care program serving a community rocked by ebola, malaria, and the exploitation of the diamond mine industry; a conservation program dedicated to developing a national park system and world heritage site along the Freetown Peninsula; and an Aussie NGO worker educating global citizens on nutrition.

In the midst of pilgrimage-like travels, my photography work opens the doorway for dialogue and relationship building within community, and to bear witness to place. My attempt in this project is to counter a stereotypical view of Sierra Leone by a global community whose views of the place are too often colored by its troubled past, while simultaneously recognizing that reality.

In that spirit, this project aims to awaken in viewers an understanding of the deeper essence and beauty of a place, its people, and its land over time. As this project continues to unfold, six years after my initial trek in 2013, my goal is to return once again to this land whose spirit seeps into the pilgrim visitor’s heart and makes them a small part of her unfolding story.