Fighting Corruption through Accountability Art

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The Accountability Lab Liberia has many ways to get the message across Liberia about the importance of being “accountable”.

In addition to monitoring those holding key national responsibilities to ensure that ordinary people understand their rights, The Accountability Lab has begun to reach out to the children of Liberia with its message, through visual arts.

“Being accountable means somebody who understands their rights, and fulfills their responsibilities,” says founder and director of the Accountability Lab Liberia, Blair Glencorse. “It begins with personal responsibility as it’s not good enough to point fingers at other people and say that they are corrupt or they are not accountable.  I think we all have to begin with our own behaviors and that’s what we are trying to help young people here understand and think about so that collectively, as the future leaders of this country, they can make it everything it should be.”

The Accountability Lab, an organization that works closely with young Liberians to come up with creative ways to build the accountability and fight corruption, has partnered with the Liberia Visual Arts (LiVArts) Academy to get its registered students involved.

“We’ve partnered with the Liberian visual arts school to develop an accountability art program. And the idea is to use art as a way to engage young people in accountability, and to give them the idea how to be responsible Liberian citizens. So we have a group of about 20 kids, and we’ve talked to them a little about what the concept of accountability is, what it means to be a responsible person. We tell them what their rights and duties are as Liberians and have them draw and paint what that means to them. So they are expressing themselves through the art work. To create an image of what it means to be an accountable Liberian,” Mr. Blair furthered.

These 10-15 year-old disciplined children are a part of the Kids Power Program, a free visual arts course offered by LiVArts Academy.

Leslie Lumeh, founder and executive director of the LiVArts Academy, says the Kids Power Program is the first of two sessions and runs from September thru June.  “Then we have the certificate program, which is for kids and young people between the ages of 16-25.”

According to Lumeh, those wanting to attend the LiVArts Academy have to meet certain criteria before being enrolled.

“All students have to have some artist ability,” Lumeh continues, “but if the child is interested and the parents feel they want to get their child involved, we can work with them.  However, as a requirement, we ask them to bring a portfolio work that they have been doing before. Our present students have been here six months; they have improved to a large extent. They’re really picking up and their imaginations are opening as they are starting to get the point of creating.”

According to Glencorse, who has worked closely with Lumeh during the current session, these young students drew everything from people dropping trash and not picking it up, to teachers asking for money for grades and all of the kinds of problems that they think they see every day and can relate to.

“This is the very first accountability art class and we are using students that are already registered. But over time we want to do this much more often, bringing kids from all over the city – any children – but in the future it could also be adults. This is a universal issue,” Glencorse asserts, “and we want to have accountability art shows to exhibit the brilliant art that the kids are coming up with and use that as the bases of discussion about these issues aboard a set of people and decision makers.”

In as much, he believes that the LiVArts Academy is also teaching the youths how to draw and paint which is a useful skill for them to have, and a great way for them to express themselves.

Furthermore, with a dream to one day expand the art session from drawing on paper to one day accelerating to having a wall art campaign with the kids, he hopes that the students’ art can be used on some of the walls around Monrovia to convey accountability messages.

 “It will promote positive change and the good thing about art. You don’t have to read to understand what you see. It’s just a three hour morning session but we’re hoping to do this once or twice a month. Let’s see what happens,” he says.

Meanwhile, a competition for three of the best drawers was discussed as the children focused attentively on their hand drawings. So caught up in the imagination that comes with being a child, the children were unaware that their drawings might be featured in LIB LIFE.

“The other thing we’ll like to do is partner with the Daily Observer and the kids. The best poem or painting that they come up with on the accountability issues; will be printed in the paper with their names and picture. It helps them to want to do their best and also exposes them to a wider audience.” Blair finalized.

The winners for best drawing in this round of Accountability Art exercise are, Austin Mah (1st place), Tracy Lumeh (2nd place) and Jeremiah Kerkula (3rd place).

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