The Liberian government finds itself in a difficult position after cultural advocates began criticizing its move to start the construction of the new culture center in Ben Town, Margibi County, describing such a plan as an irreparable damage to culture.
According to the government, the first phase of the project will begin with fencing the 52-acre of land secured for the National Culture Center and building a concrete pillar fence with barbed wire. The government also said 30 acres will be used for construction of the new cultural village.
Phase two of the agreement will start with the construction of pre-fabricated buildings to be positioned at 15 different sites in accordance with the master design layout.
The cost of the project has been put at US$200,000, and the contractor, Manyu Kamara of Link Architecture Contractor and Consultant, will pre-finance the purchase of all equipment and materials.
For more than eight years now, government has been hit with extensive criticisms from cultural advocates for its refusal to relocate the new cultural center to Behsao after selling Kendeja. The refusal is seen as a direct setback to their arguments.
No matter what arguments advocates advance about this project, the Liberian government made the unilateral decision to kick-start the project.
Maybe the Liberian government’s decision came in the wake of trying to boost the public’s confidence that culture is part of the government’s national agenda and that the assertions that they do not care about culture is wrong. Whatever the case may be, the Liberian government has taken a decisive stance.
The project, if not completed for the budgeted amount, will also make way for skepticisms or doubts from campaigners, and would certainly elicit disagreements among citizens, while still being strongly backed by the Liberian government.
However, many thought that the announcement from the Liberian government could open a new chapter of relationship after much delay to build the center, but that seems far from becoming a reality.
Saifa Ballah, Executive Director, Flomo Theater Production, added his voice to the heated condemnations of the step taken by the Liberian government to build the culture center in an area that does not possess any cultural value by calling it a direct punch to their faces.
“The first problem with this new center is that it will be built with pre- fabricated Ebola materials, which is not part of our culture,” Mr. Ballah said, adding that the so-called new center is another money scheme for government officials.
“A culture center does not need to be built with pre-fabricated Ebola materials, but rather with typical traditional building materials,” he said.
He added that the lack of consultation with stakeholders and technicians is the cause that the center is about to be misplaced and generate new problems for culture.
“Does the Liberian Government consider the National Cultural Center a national priority and if it does, then why must a government ask an unknown company to pre-finance so important a national endeavor?” the Daily Observer newspaper asked in one of its editorials.
The editorial added: “The Cultural Center in Marshall? Marshall has beautiful beaches and imposing new mansions already, but there is nothing cultural in Marshall besides Fanti Town. And the Fanti people are not even Liberians. This is as such a misplacement of our sense of cultural value.”
Regarding the Observer’s assertion that the National Culture Center would be misplaced in Marshall, President of the Liberia National Culture Union (LINCU), Kekura Kamara, said “a culture center should be built in an area that has significant cultural value, not an area like this new location.”
The LINCU boss said it is unfortunate that the Liberian government is pretending to have a cultural agenda after failing miserably to do so in the past year, “and this is definitely a cover up for the US$100,000 that Kendeja was sold.”
“No one has seen the blueprint of the village, expect a few government officials. And the worst part is that they do not care to seek advice from the real technicians on the ground about how a cultural center should look like,” Mr Kamara noted.
Kamara said that government is afraid to engage stakeholders because they do not want to account for the money that Bob Johnson paid to purchase Kenedaja, the former cultural center.
“If they refuse to listen to us and go ahead with building the new center, it will be abandoned because no real cultural practitioner would like to live in a pre-fabricated building that does not represent their culture,” he added.