Research / Staff

Salone Drift is a documentary that charts informal sand and rock mining in Freetown, Sierra Leone, tracing its ruinous consequences to a legacy of colonial inequality and contemporary eco-cide. A British colony until the 1960s, Freetown was an urban laboratory for western experimentation. Concerns around malaria produced health segregation that reshaped the city, including the establishment of Hill Station in the 1930s, a supposedly disease-free enclave for the colonial authorities high above Freetown’s infected city. That uneven topography continues: Hill Station remains a site of prosperity, home to the development of luxury villas. This construction boom consumes sand and rock from unregulated sources, impacting on the city below.

Salone Drift uncovers the informal processes of extraction that increases flooding and soil erosion and undermines living conditions for Freetown’s urban poor. In doing so, the film surveys the uneven strata of race, class, and health—injustices hidden beneath urbanisms of the Global South today. This research is funded by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Remote sensing image of Freetown Peninsula illustrating urban growth (brown) relative to deforestation (red).
Composited, Killian Doherty. Data sourced from USGS

Urban growth, Freetown Sierra Leone, 2016.
Killian Doherty

Labourers, Freetown Sierra Leone, 2014.
Killian Doherty

Hydro-electric infrastructure, Freetown Sierra Leone, 2016.
Killian Doherty

Kroo Bay settlement, Freetown Sierra Leone, 2016.
Killian Doherty