President Bio Revives Canoe Competition in Bonthe
Efforts to regain the lost glory of the Bonthe Sherbro Island have been intensified as President Julius Maada Bio revived the first annual canoe competition to signal a dawn of a new era in the municipality.
The canoe race started in 1959 and stopped in 1964, a situation that signaled the beginning of a decline of the Bonthe Sherbro Island.
However, President Bio has revived the annual canoe race, with seven sets of competitors participating in this year’s competition. Five sets of competitors came from five chiefdoms and two sets from the Bonthe municipality.
When presenting the trophies and cash prices to each set of participants, President Bio said the last time they held a canoe competition in Bonthe Sherbro Island was in 1964, nearly 60 years ago.
“The rejuvenation of this competition was part of my government’s ambition to regain the lost glory of this municipality. We are Sherbros, this is our culture. As Sherbros, our identities are boats and fishing. Fishing is what we do to earn our livelihood while the boat racing is a way of boosting our economy and tourism,” he said.
President Bio presented cash price to all sets of competitors but trophies were only awarded to those within the categories of first to third places. The winning team was from Nongoba Bullom Chiefdom.
Deputy Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, William I. Kongkatee Robinson said the canoe race was initiated by the then British Governor of the colony of Freetown and Bonthe Municipality in 1959.
“The Governor used to host this competition every 26th December. He would travel from Freetown through the sea to Bonthe Sherbro Island. During the active years of this competition, spectators from all the chiefdoms in Bonthe District and outside the district used to assemble in the municipality to witness it,” he recalled.
He said the competition used to boost the economy and tourism of the island, adding that the winners would always take the trophies and cash prices to the communities where they hailed from.
“We are happy to see that all the activities that were no longer taking place in Bonthe Sherbro Island have been revived. This is what everybody from this municipality wants to see. Activities such as these will bring back optimism to our people and subsequently boost tourism. We hope that it would never stop again,” he said.