The iconic Cotton Tree of Freetown, Sierra Leone, has fallen during a storm. The Cotton Tree is a symbol of the country’s history and independence since it is the spot where African captives gathering together on their arrival to the country.
The tree was fabled to have been planted over 200 years ago from a cotton ball picked up by a 16-year-old liberated African at Clarence, where many of the African captives disembarked in Freetown.
Local authorities think that the tree was poorly maintained leading to it falling in the storm. Many in the community of Freetown have expressed shock and sadness about the symbolic tree’s destruction.
Sierra Leone’s Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Sidie Yahya Tunis, has expressed a desire to restore the tree and replace it with a nearly identical one. Tunis also encouraged public discussion about commemorating the Cotton Tree and honoring the site’s past and present history.
The tree has become a site of official laying of wreaths for events including the 50th anniversary of independence and other national holidays. It will be a gap in the Freetown cultural heritage until the new Cotton Tree is planted and restored to its full glory.