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There are plenty of “I don’t have any proof, but I just know that it’s true” creolists/dilettantes/politicians out there that share the notion that Krio began with the Maroons who arrived in 1800, speaking their own Creole language.  More recently, it has been proposed that Krio was actually brought to Africa with the Nova Scotian Settlers, who spoke another American (= western hemisphere) Creole called Gullah.  Either way, Krio isn’t seen as home-grown, from that perspective.  My position, however, has always been, that there was a “pre-Krio” already being spoken on the Rice Coast (Gambia to Liberia) before the Free Town colony was established in 1787.  It almost certainly wouldn’t have been called Krio, though.  But we have evidence that it was being spoken.

Everybody knows the conventional history: The Black Poor from England arrived in 1782 (most of whom were actually African), the Nova Scotians came in 1792, and the Maroons in 1800, ready to gi di Novaskoshan dem wahala.   But overall, slightly fewer than 2,000 people altogether.  Once here, and for the next 70 years, they were joined by the “Liberated Africans,” who were disembarked in Freetown and who outnumbered the first three groups fifty times.  They don’t get much play in the published European accounts. Nearly half of them were Aku (Yoruba), and Yoruba has made a massive impact on the Krio language.

Now—and this is where I get a bit nervous – there seems to be a political dimension to insisting that the  Krio language (and thus (?) Krio identity) comes from outside. But me, “are name Micks, en are nor dae mix.” I’m only interested in the Krio language, not the identity.  I’ve known bɔkubɔku Kangbe folks who would love to be Creoles. But surely, being Sierra Leonean is what matters?  I belong to a population that has no country at all, and ownership of the least bit of our planet is precious, even if that bit was created by the colonialists.

I’d like to post bits and pieces (kpanjuku) about where Krio comes from and how it has been shaped by social and historical factors into wetin i bi tide … ɛf una nɔ wan lɛ a dɔk mi fut pan una biznɛs, mɛk a no, a go le wantɛm.  Mi na alejo aftarɔl.

Ian Hancock FRSA OBE (xulaj@utexas.edu) is retired and writing a book about Krio called Speaking Littorally.  He lives in Buda, Texas, with his wife and five children.

5 Comments

  • Posted September 4, 2021
    by Alfred Archibald

    Never end joy when reading it
    Your penmanship and passion is superb

  • Posted September 5, 2021
    by John Hollist

    Interesting: a search for the origin of SL “Krio”. I always thought it was enough that the children born to residents of the Freetown Colony whose first, and usually only language, was “Krio”. Over time, these speakers then formed a cultural identity know as the ‘Creoles’ of SL. In other words, ‘Krio’ started with the Creoles of SL, notwithstanding the Yoruba, English, Spanish and other language influences. I am ready to be corrected. The other hybrid languages spoken in the rest of English speaking West Africa ( the Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia) are usually referred to a ‘pidgins’ precisely because, although they have many similarities to Krio, they lack this group of native born first language speakers.

  • Posted September 5, 2021
    by Wallace Scott

    Interesting, would like to know more. Thanks

  • Posted September 5, 2021
    by Gibril Cole

    Interesting bit. While waiting for the book, it’s only fair that Hancock be made aware of the need for historical clarity and accuracy. For starters, the so-called Black Poor did not arrive in 1782. And Freetown was not established in 1787. The center of the settlement was Granville Town, a referent reportedly coined by Granville Sharp. I am sure, however, that all of this will be taken care of as the monograph takes shape, the author being an alejo notwithstanding.

    • Posted September 5, 2021
      by Ian Hancock

      Dear Dr. Cole — you’re absolutely right, you’ll see I have 1787 in my other publications—a silly slip.  And of course I know that it was Granville Town before it was Free Town/Freetown — I simply avoided too much detail in the short statement.

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