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Mokpangumba, our village, our home.

Sergio Leyva Seiglie | Moyamba, Sierra Leone

The only way to Mokpangumba is by dugout canoe and then a 2 mile walk through the bush. The village was deliberately founded in this isolated spot more than two centuries ago to try and protect the people from slave raiders. Unfortunately, during the civil war the river proved a less effective barrier and rebels twice crossed over to attack.

Mokpangumba is a small village in the heart of Upper Banta Chiefdom, Moyamba province, Sierra Leone. Being so close to hugely profitable rutile mines it was utterly destroyed during the civil war of 1991-2001. Rebels attacked and kidnapped many of the villagers for use as soldiers and labourers. Children were easiest to capture and were thought to make the best soldiers or ‘bush wives’. Thirteen years later, Mokpangumba’s people are still rebuilding their lives but do so with astonishing optimism, unity and determination.

This is my visual testimony and my personal search of the human character and nature within itself, and my humble tribute to the people I photograph.

Can a family separated by the transatlantic slave trade for 170 years sing and dance its way back together? THEY ARE WE tells the story of survival against the odds and how determination and shared humanity can triumph over the bleakest of histories.

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