Aaay Siafa!

A tribute by Robin Dopoe Jr.

In the afternoon of Saturday, May 6, Liberia learned that Siafa Kollie Ballah, Executive Director of Flomo Theater Inc., has passed away at the age of 45.

Siafa, a fearless advocate during his short stay on earth, left his mark on and fought for the survival of Liberia’s cultural legacy.

This legacy, which Siafa fought for so passionately, was the preservation and promotion of Liberia’s cultural values and to keep alive the legacy and profound works and memories of the late-great Liberian culturists Peter Y. Ballah, Bai T. Moore and Ma Gbessie Kiazolu.

Like his father Peter Y. Ballah, Siafa was truly a blessing to his family and Liberia. During his short life, he fearlessly advocated, albeit behind the scenes, for the promotion of Liberia’s culture; and on several occasions, he persistently challenged the government to preserve and protect cultural heritage sites across the country.

Born during the heyday of Liberian culture, and unfortunately lived long enough to witness its decline, Siafa led a resistance movement – a movement which has resulted in an almost renovated National Museum.

Through his fearless advocacy and unbending sacrifice to promote and preserve our culture, the government has now been able to develop a strategy to identify, preserve and promote several cultural and heritage sites around the country.

According to Dr. Dawn Cooper Barnes, Associate Vice President for Academic Support Services at the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU), “This is a big blow to Liberia. He was a patriotic and visionary cultural leader who worked tirelessly to restore the heydays of Liberia’s culture. I’m absolutely devastated and cannot believe that he is no more.”

Yes indeed, Siafa was a great man who loved his country and also challenged Liberians to respect and practice their culture through exhibiting their traditions and culture on a daily basis.

A true patriot, Siafa lived a humble life because he believed that a leader should lead, which earned him a lot of adoration. But he refused to accept praises, which clearly demonstrated his humility.

His journey from being just a boy who graduated from the Poro Society to a cultural icon embodied the promise that we all can make a change for the better.

And the fact that Siafa did this with grace and good humor, and his ability to acknowledge his own failures, made him such a remarkable man.

I am one of the millions who drew inspiration from him. I remember on several occasions discussing ways that Liberia’s culture can be promoted and preserved. And from those discussions, I put myself into his shoes and started writing several articles that called on Liberians and the media to promote our culture.

And like so many whose lives he impacted, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the examples that Siafa lived by; and as long as I live, I will do my best to imitate him.

I close this tribute with what the Former Assistant Minister for Culture at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, Louise W. McMillian, said about Siafa when she described him as one of the most gifted and prolific cultural figures Liberia has ever had.

“Siafa was a person who has a strong passion for culture and never gave up doing his best to preserve and promote Liberian culture,” she added.


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