How Natural Skincare Brand krio Started: About Sierra Leone and the Krio Language

How Natural Skincare Brand krio Started: About Sierra Leone and the Krio Language

Although our anti-ashy skin care formula was born in the middle of a Boston kitchen, krio’s roots go much further back. Krio isn’t just a skincare line about how “being ashy is never cool.” Krio is a lifestyle with a story and a purpose.

In this post, we’ll provide an all-encompassing rundown of Sierra Leone - from it’s history and people to it’s natural wonders and culture and how this all influenced the story behind krio

Sierra Leone: Early History

Sierra Leone first became inhabited over 2,500 years ago by indigenous African peoples. It’s dense, tropical rainforest helped to isolate the country from other sub-colonial African cultures, subjugation by Sahelian kingdoms, violence and jihads.

In 1462, Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra mapped the hills surrounding Freetown Harbour, of the country’s capital, Freetown, and named the area Serra Lyoa (Lioness Mountain).

In the late 15th century, Portuguese ships visited this estuary in Freetown. The estuary is actually one of the largest, natural deep-water harbours in the world. European mariners visited often to shelter and replenish drinking water while some stayed permanently, trading and marrying locals. 

The name Sierra Leone dates back to 1462, when a Portuguese explorer sailed down the coast of West Africa. There seems some dispute whether it was the shape or climatic conditions that influenced Pedro da Cintra to come up with “Serra Lyoa” meaning Lioness Mountains.

16th to 18th Centuries

In the mid-16th century, the Mane people invaded, subjugated the indigenous coastal peoples and militarized Sierra Leone. They soon blended in with local populations and many captives were sold to European slave traders.

The 17th and 18th centuries were when the Atlantic slave trade flourished until it was finally abolished in 1807.

At Freetown, a colony of liberated Africans were released, joined by West Indian and African soldiers that fought for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. The descendants of these settlers were referred to as Creoles, or Krios

Independence from the United Kingdom

Fast forward to 1961, when Sierra Leone gained independence from the United Kingdom and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations

This occurred on April 27, when Sir Milton Margai led Sierra Leone and became the country’s first prime minister. Sierra Leone held their first general election as an independent nation a year later in May 1962 and Sir Milton Margai got reelected. 

The years after independence were prosperous for Sierra Leone, with mineral resources being used for development and Njala University being founded in 1964. Today, more than 25,000 students attend the university in Freetown. 

Since then, different officials have been elected and the structure of the government has fluctuated. 

The civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991 with a campaign against President Joseph Saidu Momoh, and ended in 2002 with the help of British troops after a two-year mission to help stop the war. 

In 2018, former military ruler Julius Maada Bio won the presidential election as Sierra Leone People’s Party candidate. He beat Samura Kamara from the All People’s Congress. Bio remains in office today. 

What is Krio (and Why Does it Matter)?

No, we aren’t talking about us, the “being ashy is never cool,” krio. We’re talking about Krio, also known as Sierra Leonean Creole, an English-based creole language spoken by the citizens of Sierra Leone.

Krio is spoken by 87% of the population in Sierra Leone and helps to unite different ethnic groups, especially in trade and social interaction. The Krio language is native to Sierra Leone Creole people, also known as, Krios.

“Aw di bodi?” means “how are you doing?” in Krio.

Krios are a community of about 300 thousand descendants of freed slaves from the West Indies, United States and the British Empire. Millions of other Sierra Leoneans that belong to the country’s indigenous tribes speak Krio as a second language.

Origin of Krio (Language)

The language originated from variations of English brought by Nova Scotia settlers from North America, Maroons from Jamaica, and the many liberated African slaves who settled in Sierra Leone. 
The basic grammatical structure is an offshoot of Jamaican Maroon Creole as there are strong historical connections between Jamaica and Sierra Leone. There are also many influences from the Akan, Yoruba and Igbo languages.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you didn’t think that was enough, Krio also draws from European languages like Portuguese and French. 

Fun fact, the word “gentri/gentree,” which translates to wealth or to acquire wealth, derives from the Old French word, “gentry,” and the word pikin, which means child, indirectly draws from the Portuguese word “pequeno,” meaning “small” and often used to mean children.

Sierra Leoneans were actually discouraged from speaking Krio during colonial rule. 

It wasn’t until after independence from the United Kingdom in 1961 that writers and educators began promoting using the language. Although English is the country’s official language, Krio is still widely used in education, politics and media. 

Culture, Landmarks and Food

There are many local treasures, points of interests and cultural practices that are unique to Sierra Leone.

For starters, Freetown center boasts a large cotton tree where early settlers would give thanks around upon their arrival. Streets and buildings such as the Law Courts, State House, oldest settler church and the central bank can all be located in relation to the Cotton Tree.

Unique Dishes: What are Plasas?

If you don’t have a sweet tooth, rice is in almost every dish one comes across in Sierra Leone. Common dishes that are served with rice are called plasas, or palaver sauce. 

Plasas are leaf-based stews commonly made with various green leaves and cooked with oil, chili, onion, and meat and/or fish. There are a variety of plasas, the most popular being cassava leaf plasa and potato leaf plasa.

If do have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. In April and May, mangoes are sold everywhere on the street from vendors and to local shops. There are different varieties, including the fleshy Guinea mango and the easy-to-slice Big Cherry mango.

Beaches, Chimpanzees and Mountainous Forests

Unique dishes aren’t the only thing Sierra Leone prospers in, beautiful landscapes are top of the list too. 

Enjoy a stroll along the beach at River No. 2 Beach with white sand and green mountains along the horizon. For a more active beach day, Bureh Beach is known for its incredible surf.

The natural wonders of Sierra Leone don’t stop at the coast. Right outside of Freetown, escape to Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and you’ll find yourself immersed in community conservation and environmental education of over 100 rescued chimpanzees. 

Mount Bintumani Photo:

Mount Bintumani

Travel inland to northeastern Sierra Leone and you’ll find yourself in the Loma Mountains where the country’s highest point, Mount Bintumani, resides.

Now that you have explored our brief overview of the history and culture of Sierra Leone and the Krio people - the independence from the U.K., the plasas, the coast of River No. 2 Beach and the peak of Mount Bintumani - you may have a better understanding of the root of our inspiration here at krio. 

To learn more about our products and the natural botanical ingredients that are used to craft them, please visit or follow us on Instagram.

Resources for Learning More About Sierra Leone

If you are interested in learning more about Sierra Leone, here are some resources to help you dig deeper into the culture and life of the Krio people:

23 Things to Know Before You go to Freetown, Sierra Leone

Britannica | Sierra Leone

The World Factbook | Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: History | The Commonwealth

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