In Freetown, Sierra Leone, there is a huge imposing Cotton tree. The Tree stands in the middle of the city like an African god, braving the harsh realities of the modern day world and registering history from the time when Freetown was a market for slaves. This historic Cotton Tree in Freetown will join almost 400 iconic attractions worldwide turning green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the first time in 2019.
Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative, now in its tenth year, sees world-famous sites including New York’s Empire State Building, London’s Trafalgar Square Gardens and Rome’s Colosseum light in green in 2019 to mark St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s national day celebration. In previous years, locations such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Egypt have participated in the event.
The campaign highlights Ireland’s profile globally while also shedding a spotlight on well-known attractions in emerging tourist markets. Sierra Leone appears as one of a growing number of emerging markets partaking in the initiative in 2019, joining Zambia’s Victoria Falls, the Church of St. George at Lalibela, Ethiopia, and the Jinja Bridge at the source of river Nile in Uganda.
Launching the initiative on March 12, Catherine Campbell, Ambassador of Ireland noted that “The Cotton Tree’s inclusion in Ireland’s Global Greening initiative is the perfect opportunity to highlight Sierra Leone’s huge potential as a tourist destination across Irish and international media. We welcome the initiative and commitments of the Government of Sierra Leone to growing the tourism sector, including progress towards streamlining the tourist entry visa process as well as commitments to increasing conservation efforts following the recent visit of Dr Jane Goodall, which captured international attention.”
“As a City, we are really excited that our historic Cotton Tree will, for the first time, join other tourist landmarks from around the world to participate in Ireland’s Global Greening Initiative. This is an opportunity for us in Freetown, to further showcase the beauty and story of our city. The imposing Cotton Tree stands in the centre of Freetown, a symbol of hope and resilience. I am grateful for the partnership with the Irish Embassy in Sierra Leone that continues to support our transformative agenda. I want to encourage visitors to discover Freetown and experience the sights and sounds of our city.” the mayor of Freetown Aki-Sawyerr added.
Standing at Freetown’s Center, the Cotton Tree is one of Sierra Leone’s oldest and most well-known landmarks, with a unique history, symbolism and cultural significance. While the tree’s exact age is unknown, it was already standing in the late 1780s, when freed African slaves returning to the continent from Great Britain and North America are said to have gathered under the tree to give thanks for their safe arrival.