Liberians in every part of the Western world might get too tired with the level of negative publicity that is provided them in those parts of the world about their country. Some of them, like Eugenia Shaw and Sarah Gusten-Marr, can no longer sit supinely and watch these trends continue.
Liberia has been in the news for all the negatives ranging from war, corruption, poverty, acute human suffering and the recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak that helped to further devastate the country by exacerbating the suffering of its citizens.
The two ladies, shunning this mentality, have said that Liberia has more positives than what is being shown out there. Being natives of the country they want to tell the world that “Liberia is not just what you think it is. There is more to the negatives – the sceneries, beautiful and hospitable people, the beaches and other natural gifts that can be explained through arts.”
They spoke with the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview in Monrovia. The ladies said they are embarking on a project that will leave a positive reflection on the country and its citizens.
Their project will focus on health, education and arts, adding, “Our artistic works will tell the world what Liberia is made of and not just all the negative news that come out of the country.”
The two ladies arrived in the country four days ago and have been engaging relevant stakeholders in the health, education and tourism sectors.
“We want to try to help give this country a new image,” they said in an interview.
“We that are out there hear all the negatives about Liberia, though there are a lot of good things about the country. It is the good things that we want to promote.”
This visit is Sarah’s first time since her birth, saying that coming on a charitable mission to support health education and art in the country is the best way to come back home after 45 years. Sarah has had a complicated, yet successful life.
She was orphaned from birth because her biological mother died at childbirth, and her father was not capable to take care of the new born. The child was entrusted into the care of a German couple living in Liberia, Rolf and Michaela Güsten, who already had two daughters. They ended up adopting her.
She has since become an internationally acclaimed artist/painter and runs her own showroom (gallery) known as the GM Gallery North Yorkshire, England. She is highly connected and boasts of an international connection of clients. She said arts have been her life and it speaks to the soul. She runs Gallery GM, which also contains a dance studio, her own pub tap room called The Flute and Stiletto, among others.
Sarah hopes the trip will be the first of many and that publicity surrounding her visits will help promote Liberia to the wider world “showing a side not often seen.”
She wants to use arts to transform the image of her country globally. “Liberia has some of the most beautiful places in the world and we need to tell the world about these places.
“I have done too much in other countries and people and I think it is time that I try to help my native country excel. Both of us are just individuals and we cannot do everything, but we really want to do our best. This is our country and we must do our part.”
The other lady, Eugenia Shaw, is the founder of HIV and AIDS Action for Liberia (HAAL), an HIV advocacy and support group that targets young people sensitizing them about safety. She chose her colleague, Sarah, as the patron of the charity organization, which will carry out health promotion.
Eugenia and Sarah’s trip is twofold. Though they are focussing on health education, they are also endeavouring to help launch the Liberian Arts and Crafts Society, aiming to promote indigenous talent.
The ladies noted that some of the best arts come from the most disadvantaged places. “Everywhere there is poverty, you will find some of the best music. Art is a great healer,” Sarah said. She intends to personally fund art prizes in an effort to unearth the best Liberian talent.
While in the country, one of Sarah’s most poignant engagements will be to visit an orphanage to acquaint her with how life is there. “There are lots of orphans in this country, my country. I was one, and one of the lucky ones. It’s my duty to make a difference for them.”
She said that she is not in the country to discover who she is but rather to make a difference, to encourage and to educate.
“Over the years, Liberia has received a serious amount of negative press and it is time for Liberians to change this view. Liberia’s legacy is truly humbling considering why the country was established in the first place,” she said.