Think of this piece as such a guide, a survival guide maybe. But shed the pomp and embrace the turn up. This party etiquette column is of a different kind to those written by the straight-laced society woman. Your writer (me, hello!) has decades (only a couple!) of experience in the circuit of Sierra Leonean parties. In that time I’ve witnessed the hilarious and sometimes frustrating habits of my people. And some of these transgressions, I admit, I have committed myself.
Read below for rules on party crashing and where to position yourself to get the tastiest chop (hint, it’s not near the kitchen).
Sierra Leone has perfected many things: amazing beaches (check); diamonds (check); beautiful women (obvs, check). But there’s another important contribution: Sierra Leoneans invented African time. Disregard the “Promptly 3pm” start time on that wedding invitation. Instead show up at 5:30pm when the bride finally arrives, otherwise you’ll look something like this.
Expect three people – at least – to show up on that one invitation. One of the unauthorised ‘plus ones’ may be you.
Instead it goes home with your aunty and her friends. That was no illusion – you did see your little cousin walk past you with four pans of roast meat, so stare as they go by because you’ll never see them again.
It’s usually passed around as an appetizer, before the meal table opens. Make a dash for that foil pan when you see it passed around because I guarantee that aunty sitting next to you is grabbing four.
But look at this deliciousness, can you blame her? (PS. Suya doesn’t stand up to this. Bring on the next African food wars).
In Sierra Leone weekends are made up of cold drinks and spicy niks naks. Roasted meat with that special charcoal bbq flavour just happened to fall into the family too. Squeeze some lime on it and it's happiness in your mouth. A different kind of happiness. Happy Saturday. Photocred: @ninaskyye 🍴 #food #foodporn #salone #africanfood #SierraLeone #roastmeat #spicy #africa #instafood #yummy #amazing #instagood #photooftheday #sweet #dinner #lunch #everydayafrica #fresh #tasty #delish #delicious #eating #foodpic #foodie #travelblogger #wanderlust #hungry #foodgasm #hot #thisissierraleone
Usually served at smaller get-togethers, like at home, foofoo is a staple of the West African diet. I know your manicure is fresh. I know that spoon is tempting, but eat your foofoo with your hands, always. Otherwise you will be side-eyed out of civilisation.
The food table opens. Table 1 is invited to serve first. Lucky for you, the person who illegally invited you to the party had a seating assignment at said Table 1. You make your way to the food spread to serve and notice that people from the last table, Table 99, are getting in line too. Don’t do the math. Just go with it, because after all you weren’t officially invited at all, just saying…
And while we’re at it, add this one too:
Don’t get mad that the aunty who cut in front of you from Table 99 has two plates in hand. She’s serving for her man. Can’t knock the hustle.
Your mum will introduce you to everyone, and you’re expected to remember them, even the person who gave you your first bath (this really happened!). Just say yes, you do.
In fact, as a rule-of-thumb and a general key to survival in an African household, say ‘yes Mum’ to everything.
After dinner the dance floor finally opens. I love my people, but the dance move I’ve seen most in the past twenty years has been the two-step. I have to applaud my Naija countrymen for showing that dance floor no mercy. But don’t be shy to be the first one to throw down. Study one of these dances and start practicing. Do it for personal pride because you’ll likely be dancing alone.
Lastly, you will hear Brenda Fassie’s hit song at at Every. Single. Party. Not mad at this one though.
*While I am not middle-aged or straight-laced, rest assured the manicure was present in writing this piece.
This is part of a guest editorship series by Nadia Sesay. She’s producing a special feature for TRUE Africa on Sierra Leone.