The Temne Reunion
A Long-Separated Family Comes Back Together After 250 Years
Carriacou Island, Grenada
September 27th - 30th, 2016

You are invited to participate in this unique historic event!

A long lost family

A small group of people on the island of Carriacou in the Caribbean nation of Grenada still identify with the Temne tribe of Sierra Leone. They still call themselves “Temnes,” and they celebrate their heritage with a Temne song, dance, and drum routine handed down for centuries. Several times a year they proudly display these vestiges of their African past as part of a dramatic traditional performance called the “Big Drum Dance.”

The Connection

Folklorists have known about the Carriacou Temnes since the 1950s, but no one paid attention to their importance for modern Sierra Leoneans until 2011 when three scholars went to Carriacou to witness the vestiges of Temne heritage on that island first-hand, and to find out if the modern Carriacou Temnes were interested in meeting with their long-lost family in Africa.

Historical Background

The British slave owners quickly left the island as their cotton and sugar plantations were no longer profitable. The former slaves were then left on an isolated island only 7 miles long ...

Bunce Island and Carriacou

The story begins with Bunce Island, a British slave castle in Sierra Leone operated by the London-based firm of Grant, Oswald & Company. John Mill, one of the firm’s associates, bought a large plantation on Carriacou after British naval forces seized the island from the French in 1762.

Carriacou Temne Culture

When Martin, Opala, and Schmidt visited Carriacou in 2011, Winston Fleary, the noted Big Drum Dance organizer, took them into the interior of the island where the Temne descendants live today. The researchers were astounded when they realized that Carriacouans still pronounce the name Temne as Themne or Themene, the ancient names for that tribe that are still remembered in Sierra Leone but no longer used.

The Temne Reunion

Amadu Massally, a well-known Sierra Leone cultural activist, recently visited Grenada and held talks with that country’s Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation & Culture and then went to Sierra Leone soon afterwards to meet with the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. Massally found that both governments are enthusiastic about organizing a Temne Reunion in Carriacou.

The Temne Homecoming

But the Temne Reunion is just the beginning. The Sierra Leone Government will issue an invitation for representatives of the Carriacou Temne community to come on a “Temne Homecoming” to Sierra Leone in 2017.

Looking to the Future

But the strongest impact of the Reunion and Homecoming, and the documentary based on them, will likely be to inspire the other eight African “Nations” on Carriacou to reach out to their own lost families in other African countries – such as the Mandinka in Senegal, the Ashanti in Ghana, the Igbo in Nigeria, and the Congo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and plan other Reunions and Homecomings in the future.