Being a Krio Woman: What does it mean to you?

September 7th, 2011  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, My Two Cents  |  25 Comments


This past weekend I attended the Krio Descendants Union Global “Family Reunion” [See pictures here]- a weekend all about celebrating the culture and heritage of Krios, which is an ethnic group in Sierra Leone. An ethnic group that biologically I belong to, but one I had nearly no idea how it separated me from other ethic groups in Sierra Leone like the Temnes, the Mendes, or the Limbas. All I knew– Krios, unlike other groups, typically have english sounding last names, which are usually hyphenated. (ie: Nelson-Williams, Milton-King, Fraser-Davies, etc)

As a Krio woman I wanted to learn more about what traditionally has defined us, so during the weekend I asked woman of all ages to give me their definition of a Krio woman.


The question of– how can the next generation (my generation) continue to pass down the Krio culture and traditions?– is one that I’ve been thinking about throughout the weekend till now. And though I don’t know the exact answer- I know it starts with having a strong community to reinforce the values and customs we want to preserve. But as any immigrant group can probably attest to- the more removed a generation is from their homeland- the more challenging it is to keep a community together.

Are you apart of an immigrant group? How have you preserved your cultural heritage throughout the generations? Can you relate to the characteristics of a Krio woman? Do you agree with how the “Krio woman” was defined?


  1. Fefe Kamara says:

    September 7th, 2011at 4:50 pm(#)

    Quite interesting! But i wonder if it is better to sometimes challenge our ways of thinking, without abolishing the culture as a whole?

  2. Ms. Veralyn says:

    September 7th, 2011at 4:56 pm(#)

    Yes! That’s why I thought it was important to end with asking how we can pass along what makes up Krio culture (the language, foods, rituals, ect)… “we” meaning a generation that did not grow up in SL– and doesn’t (for the most part) think the stereotypical way some Krios do.

  3. A Nelson-williams says:

    September 7th, 2011at 5:16 pm(#)

    Very interesting, but could not hear the above discussion.

  4. Ms. Veralyn says:

    September 7th, 2011at 5:19 pm(#)

    Is it that Sierra Leone internent connection? I’ll work on transcribing the audio now!

  5. Fefe Kamara says:

    September 7th, 2011at 6:17 pm(#)

    I love the mindset that u bring to this Veralynn, for me it’s been something i had pondered upon and could not come up with a solution for the masses. Im in my early 30′s and i enjoy traditions but dont want to be the “stuck-up” krio. Hopefully when 2 or more heads are joined together we can still be able to implement a tradition that would be able to suit our generation.

  6. Ophelia Cole-Lewis says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:04 pm(#)

    This post got me thinking more deeply about what it really means to be a krio woman. Interestingly enough, I thought of this quite recently. I was born and brought up as a krio, though I am now learning there is far more to being a krio than I thought. I may be wrong in saying this, but the video clip did not seem to define a ‘krio woman’ which I was looking forward to – I heard talk of being more westernized ( which I agree with) but nowadays women of all ethnicity are becoming westernized , so how do we keep the identity of being a krio? I thought of traditional rituals such as ‘neole’, pouring libation (hope I’m right in the way I’ve said this or you at least get what I mean), visiting the cemetary, throwing the cola nut at 40th day ceremony etc. – those are the sort of actions I would associate with the Krios. But for someone like me who does not believe in those things – would not following those traditional rituals strip me of my ‘krioness’ or is there some other way I can identify with being a krio? I am here to learn, so your input will be appreciated.

  7. Donald Hanciles says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:17 pm(#)

    Good jod Veralyn, Thanks for want you do and stay bless.

  8. Rodette says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:21 pm(#)

    Not sure about the comment that Krios are all Christians. I am a Christian but I don’t think that this statement is true.

  9. Ms. Veralyn says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:27 pm(#)

    @Ophelia: One story I heard but did not include (in the interest of time)- was the Krio marriage traditions: How after they’re married the bride and groom go to the brides’ parent’s home, where they’re given water by the oldest family member. And then they make their rounds to the different parties being held in there honor. — A a 25 year old Krio, who moved to the U.S. as a baby- I feel my “Krioness” lies in knowing the language, being proud to wear the clothes, eating the food (though I learned from my interviews that my favorite thing in life: Casava Leaves- is not even Krio), and of course the marriage and barrial rituals. But like I said in my post you need a community to reinforce any culture- so it’s up to us to connect and know each other- no matter where we are in the world.

  10. Ms. Veralyn says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:33 pm(#)

    @Rodette: I know for a fact that today all Krios are NOT Christians, but traditionally Krios were always Christian. And because that’s how she defined a Krio woman- I felt it was important to include her perspective.

  11. Pauline Pratt says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:44 pm(#)

    Ophelia Cole-Lewis, I completely agree with you as we live in a more global and technological enviornment, more ethnic and tribal groups are also becoming more “westernized” thus becoming more like how we would describe ourselves. However, the values and rules we live by are still unique. The mannerism and attitude are subtle and only noticeable by someone who doesnt share the same upbringing. Our history is still unique. Krio women raise their children to be independent, strong and God-fearing which is also a unique trademark. And no, your krioness is not stripped away because you don’t do those things. Being a krio is a birthright. If your ancestors were krios, you are their descendants and no one can take that away from you. Even if it is only 50%, 25% or 5%, you are Krio period whether a person chooses to acknowledge it or not. I am my grandmothers child and her way of live influences me. If a person is ever unsure of what it means to be a Krio woman look deep within your family history and all of their experiences may explain why you are the way you are. (I think I am going to inbox you the rest because I am about to get a little personal.)

  12. Ophelia Cole-Lewis says:

    September 7th, 2011at 7:53 pm(#)

    ‎Veralyn You are quite right, the tradition at the wedding is also unique, like you I was also shocked to learn that ‘plasas’ is not a krio dish, I used to think it is just the way we cook the ‘plasas’ that made it different. With regards to community, in the area I live, krios are in very short supply that is why I am very grateful for Krio Connection FB group, I have learnt a lot from there.

  13. Planvuk says:

    September 7th, 2011at 10:28 pm(#)

    Krio’s who are not Christians are called Fourah Bay…..

  14. Jasmia says:

    September 7th, 2011at 10:29 pm(#)

    Isn’t ‘stuck up’ an issue of perception?

  15. Ms. Veralyn says:

    September 7th, 2011at 11:06 pm(#)

    Do you mean are in Fourah Bay?… According to Wikipedia: About 10% of the Krios are Muslim. The Krio Muslims are predominantly found in the Freetown suburb of Fourah Bay, and the Western Area city of Waterloo.

  16. Daphnebranche says:

    September 8th, 2011at 3:49 am(#)

    Excellent work Veralyn! Very impressive! Keep it up. It was also great seeing you and other young adults getting involved in the KDU program.

  17. Faulknerd says:

    September 8th, 2011at 12:09 pm(#)

    The Krios have Christian first names and English last names. There are a few exceptions such as the Muslim Krios (few in number and very conservative). They may go by their African name, but the Christian Krios will always have the Christian first name. 2) Plasas is a native dish as is casava leaf. Krios excel at cooking many other variety of foods that non-Krios ATTEMPT to cook (and botch). Example: pepper chicken. Some natives attempt doing it by putting tabasco sauce over the chicken and call it pepper chicken. It is not. Wearing the print dress is Krio. You can always spot a native trying to copy by doing something like using tie dye material and making a print dress. A proper print dress is made from PRINT. The print dress is worn particularly on Sundays and to occasions such as dances. How do I know this? I have been married many years to a “stuck up Krio” who would like nothing better than to be standing on the second floor balcony of the house looking down on others in the street …

  18. Faulknerd says:

    September 8th, 2011at 12:15 pm(#)

    To preserve the cultural heritage requires members of your culture teaching you, showing you. If your group is small in number, make it a point to travel to areas where there are more. For instance, in Kansas City and in Indianapolis, there are few in number. However, in the Twin Cities, there are many. There are many social occasions such as weddings, graduations, etc. where there is an opportunity to learn.

    It should be noted when there were few Sierra Leoneans here in MN, I was the one who constantly showed up at social gatherings with a nice new Sierra Leonean dress. The others always wore American dress. When they asked me about it, I told them anyone could buy American dress in America but to buy an African dress was more difficult, this was their heritage, and they should be proud to wear an African dress. Now most wear African garb and in fact the cost/design/fabric of the dress is competitive. When in Rome you may do as the Romans do, but you still need to preserve your heritage.

  19. Faulknerd says:

    September 8th, 2011at 5:36 pm(#)

    What about the tradition when a Krio woman gets married – all family and friends of the bride wear outfits made from the same material (sigismond) – a sign of support! Or the traditional wedding dance march into the reception hall! Of course, in all major ceremonies – birth/marriage/40 day death – the giving of alcohol spirits to the (dead) spirits.

  20. Oluseyi Gooding says:

    September 9th, 2011at 2:39 pm(#)

    Hey Veralyn,
    Good job here, it seems like you put a lot of effort in to this but I have some comments and others could correct me if I’m wrong.
    To start ‘krio’ is the name of the language,’creole’ is the name of the ethnic group (that’s what I was taught in school). So if we are talking about preserving the culture and all, I think we should start from there.
    Cassava leaves and potatoe leaves are not dishes of the creoles but what would you call dishes like krain-krain, green, sawa-sawa, bittas? Aren’t they all ‘plasas’? So for people to say ‘plasas’ is not a creole dish is puzzling.
    I see a lot of people agree with ‘the creoles are now westernized’ but wait a minute who were our masters and by saying masters I meant who brought up our great, great grandparents? Who taught them in school? When our grandparents wore brets and tights and heels (lady Diana)and wigs and held clucthes and wore big hats to church, were they not laughed at by others who I might add, started copying them?
    What would you call those clothing? As mentioned in other posts, the traditional dress for the creoles is ‘print’. So if you say creoles are now westernized by not wanting to practice beliefs and cultures is different from saying the creoles are now westernized by the way they dress.

  21. Hankwillia says:

    January 13th, 2012at 1:47 am(#)

    I am 67yrs old man. I was raised in Ghana by Krio Parents and Grand Parents. When I heard some discriptions of Krio People with regards to their traditions as well a the way they raise their children, it makes me feel good now. My folks would not cook on sundays, we were not allowed to play with the “riff/raffs” ei the kids in the nieghbourhood. No playing outsifde on sundays.We only eat Solone food, speak salone at home. I thought my folks were wierd, but now that I know it’s a Krio thing, My folks weren’t crazy.Thanks for your comments on this side.I would like to hear from Krio women.I enjoy going to Freetown to watch them.They will never make you go hungry. For us Decendance of Krio People in Diaspoa, Freetown is our “Mecca” indeed.

  22. Yoknyam Dabale says:

    December 7th, 2012at 3:39 pm(#)


    mi nem na Yoknyam, I lived and attended Harford School for Girls in Moyamba and Bishop Johnson Memorial school in Freetown. I used to speak Mende because we had to learn it in school but after many years I didn’t have anyone to practice with so I can barely speak it now. Interestingly enough I am still fluent in Salone Krio even after 19 years of departure from the country because of the civil war. My point? I am very familiar with Salone culture!

    In my view Krios are perfect example of a colonized people colonizing. Most Krios still practice the religion of their enslavers in Europe, Christianity, they don’t have traditional African names or clothing etc they are more open to European/ whites culture than indigenous ones such as Temme. I remember how some of my Krio classmates used to make fun of the native Salone culture, calling it uncivilized etc. I will however give Krios some credit for mixing English, Igbo, Temme,Portuguese, Yoruba, French and made a language ( Krio/ Creol) out of it.

  23. Hankwillia says:

    December 10th, 2012at 5:19 am(#)

    You forgot about the Ghanaian( Akan tribe) words in the Krio dialect,eg Butu(kutu) kongosa( konkonsa) and several more which have the same meaning..

  24. Gloria Tee says:

    March 3rd, 2016at 2:00 am(#)

    Miss V, its an interesting topic though it started a few years ago. As a creole desendant, I’m calling on my people to wake up and be real. Those people who you interviewed are either sleeping deeply or are still seating on cloud 9. None of them have answered your question from someone who is seeking knowledge about her heritage. Good luck with your search. And enjoy eating cassava leaves. God bless.

  25. Amanda Williams says:

    October 20th, 2016at 1:04 pm(#)

    You are absolutely right

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