Former Culture Minister: ‘Liberia’s Cultural Heritage in Extinction Crisis’

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The deliberate neglect of Liberia’s cultural heritage, especially over the past 12 years, has put it in a serious extinction crisis, which now put the country at risk of losing its unique cultural and traditional values, former Assistant Culture Minister Louise McMillian-Siaway has said.

Min. Siaway, who served the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism for 5 years, said there is an urgent need for investment in cultural and traditional values by the incoming government in order to preserve them for generations.

The former culture minister explained that during her tenure at the ministry, she observed that traditional languages, spoken or written, are fast dying off as most people seem not to care to speak their dialects (mostly youth), with parents or old folks not caring about teaching them to the youth.

“It’s sad and deeply troubling to know that the Vai script or syllabus written by Momolu Bukele has gone completed missing in action. The Vai language, particular of our country, is one of the several sub-Saharan African languages to develop its own writing system. The worst part is that the civilization that comes with that language is dead.

“Additionally, historical, ancient places lay in relative disrepair across the country, suffering from a lack of neglect. This shows we don’t always respect our heritage; we don’t always value it the way we should. And past governments have made it worst.

“Language, literature, and historical places are the hallmarks of our human existence, civilizations and cultures, which play a crucial role in diversity,” she said. “But these things are being lost.”

According to Min. Siaway, hope is alive if the incoming CDC-led government invests in culture to ensure that our country’s history and identity are not erased.

“Any loss of cultural heritage is a loss of our common memory; and it impairs our ability to apply lessons of the past to the present and the future,” she stated.

Min. Siaway noted that the incoming administration needs to make the protection of cultural heritage the main facet of its national development strategy by undertaking renovations to restore damaged historical places and promoting programs that encourage people to value their country.

“I hope that one day Behsao and other historical places in the country laying in ruin will once again be restored, and respect for the country’s cultures and traditions are upheld like before,” she added.

Min. Siaway during her term as minister instituted several reforms or measures to protect and promote Liberia’s cultural and traditional values, but due to constant low budgetary support to her department at the ministry, most of her reforms were not achieved.

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