The Waterloo Family - Homelands Photography Project

Challenging perceptions of Sierra Leone

Our co-produced Homelands photography exhibition explores Sierra Leone's rich culture and heritage, while challenging perceptions of Hull's twin city

Project summary

The Challenge

The way African countries are portrayed in UK public spaces remains problematic. Often, only negative aspects of the past are portrayed.

The Approach

Working with Hull's Afro-Caribbean Association, Sierra Leone's rich culture and heritage was explored, challenging perceptions of Hull's twin city.

The Outcome

An exciting partnership based on shared values and a co-created exhibition involving Hull Museums but driven by people of African birth.

Lead academics

Funded by

Project partners

The Challenge

The history of Sierra Leone is rich and diverse. Yet the distilled versions of the country's heritage that are retold here in the UK remain problematic. Only negative aspects of Sierra Leone's past are highlighted in the media, through public heritage or in scholarly works. 

Homelands, a co-produced photography exhibition, examined the shared homelands of British service personnel and Sierra Leonian people during the upheaval of the Second World War. 

The Approach

The perspectives of our partners, who have a close personal connection with Africa, brought a fresh dimension to an important, privately owned collection of photographs of Sierra Leone just prior to decolonisation from Britain.
Nicholas Evans New v3

Dr Nick Evans

Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History

Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, became Hull's twin city in 1979, leading to the creation of the charity, 'The Freetown Society'. A sister society exists in Freetown - 'The Hull Society'. The civic partnership has led to projects and activities which keep the partnership active and vibrant.

To explore Sierra Leone's rich culture and heritage and to challenge negative perceptions of Hull's only twin city, Corporal Fred Birden's wartime photography was reinterpreted by local members of the Hull Afro-Caribbean Association. Members of the association were either born, lived or had worked in West Africa. The project is part of ongoing work between the Hull Afro-Caribbean Association, Hull Museums and the University of Hull to increase the visibility of Hull's African and Afro-Caribbean community. The project has developed into the Wilberforce Museum Advisory Group, which meets four times per year to guide the exhibition and engagement work of the museum and help make heritage more inclusive.

Homelands Exhibition
The train journey to Bo. Photography by Fred Birden

The Impact

People from Sierra Leone are very proud of their heritage. The important place Freetown has in the hearts and minds of people from Hull, the birthplace of William Wilberforce, inspires us. Having worked on developing this exhibition with the University of Hull, Hull Museums and fellow members of the Hull Afro Caribbean Association, we look forward to further strengthening the ties that bond both of our countries.

Siddi Maju

Activities Coordinator - Hull Afro-Caribbean Association

This film was part of the #HAP23 event organised by the UK National Archives, Royal Historical Society and Institute for Historical Research.

The Homelands partnership between the Wilberforce Institute, Hull Museums and members of Hull Afro Caribbean Society has been announced as joint winner of the PraxisAuril KE Awards for Supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion through Knowledge Exchange. This follows a previous win secured by the team at the 2023 Museums Association ‘Museums Change Lives’ Awards earlier in November. 

"This national award highlights how successful teamwork is essential in making heritage more inclusive across the UK. We were thrilled that four members of the community, who played a pivotal role in the development of the Homelands exhibition, were with us at this national awards ceremony. Work to increase the presence of underrepresented voices in heritage remains unfinished business. Through the Wilberforce House Museum Advisory Board, we look forward to working with our friends and partners in the fight for social justice."

Dr Nicholas Evans

Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History, Wilberforce Institute

The Homelands exhibition has embarked on a tour of Sierra Leone. The tour was officially launched by Mr Foday Jallo, Director of Culture in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture on 23 November at the National Railway Museum. It will tour to several sites across Sierra Leone over the coming year.

Homelands Sierra Leone launch