A collection of a lost Sierra Leonean language named Kikaikwi believed to have been in existence in Mende land has been discovered.
The discovery of the language came about when Gary Schulze, who did his P.HD dissertation on the Mende tribe at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, saw the collection owned by one Konrad Tuchscherer putting it sale on Ebay for sale. Peter Andersen of the Special Court for Sierra Leone told Awoko that he got a letter from Gary Schulze from New York who was a peace Corps Volunteer that commissioned the statute of Bai Bureh.
He said he replied him that it would be nice if the collection which was sold for $750 would be bought for Sierra Leone. Dr. Adonis Aboud who was by then in England was contacted and he bought the collection which was sent to him from 21 Gantle Avenue, Downs Barn, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire- MK 7RS, United Kingdom. On Saturday at his Wilkinson Road office, Adonis Aboud presented the collection to the Chairman of the Lyrics Commission, Charlie Hughes for it to be kept at the Museum.
KiKai Kwi did exist in Sierra Leone and was apparently started by Kissimi Kamara (1890-1962) who was born in Farma near Potoru, Pujehun district south of the country. He was a simple tailor with the gift of writing. His descendant was the Mandinka people who lived long in Mende country. He had no formal education other than some training in Arabic but he was known as a man of unusual intelligence and energy.
Kissimi had seen how the British took over the country and subjected the chiefs to their wish and from his ability to read and write, he vowed that his own Mende people should have the same ability to read and write. In 1921, he was inspired in a dream and shut himself up in his house alone for ten weeks only to emerge with a fully complete system of writing he had developed what linguists called a set of characters representing consonant vowel combination. He called his new writing KIkaikwi for the first three letters in a system containing a total of 195 symbols.
He went on to device a method of teaching and opened a School and went on to become a famous man in the 1920s and 1930s in the Mende country as many people learnt to read and write in Klkaikwi and his writing became popular for record keeping and correspondence as some Chiefdom clerks adopted it for official use.
In the 1940s, the British established the protectorate literacy bureau in Bo to teach people to read in
Mende in a modified version of the European or Latin alphabet that caused Kissimi Kamara’s system of writing faded in to disuse and was forgotten. He became disappointed at his system being abandoned.Some historians have said his brilliant invention was destroyed by colonialism.