Liberia’s Creative Talents Need Attention

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The publisher and managing director of the Daily Observer, Kenneth Y. Best, has called on the Government of Liberia and wealthy individuals to pay greater attention to the creative and innovative people in our country. This will help to improve and protect their artistic talents enable them contribute to national growth and development.

“Our nation is blessed with many creative people. But if only the government and the wealthiest people amongst us could invest into this creative arts sector, we would have a better Liberia,” he declared.

Mr. Best was addressing the opening of the Accountability Lab and Liberia Visual Arts Academy (LiVArts) exhibition, held recently at the Nation Museum of Liberia.

“The people with money and the government have the resources to enhance artistic development in Liberia,” he said. “But sadly, they have, for the most part, refused to help promote the creativity of their own people. In the 1950s and 60s I knew a talented blind musician who not only played the organ and piano with excellence, but also composed many songs and even operas. That musician, Howard Benedict Hayes, was so gifted that though totally blind, he could tune and repair people’s pianos and organs. But this great artist was unfortunately not supported, either by the government or by people with money. Mark you, Mr. Best told his audience, there were many wealthy people in Liberia in the 1950s, who made tons of money from rubber.

“And what was the result of this terrible neglect? Baby Hayes, as he was popularly called, died a poor man,”

Mr. Best said. He continued, “I look forward to the day that our unique and talented people will be generously supported, especially by the well-to-do in our society and, in the process, the work and rights of our artists encouraged, enhanced and protected.”

Held under the theme “Accountability Art: Liberia’s Quest for Integrity”, the exhibition presented an impressive and beautiful array of art works, some of which were hailed as “masterpieces.”

Among the guests was in attendance was the British Ambassador to Liberia, David Belgrove. However the French Ambassador, Joel Godeau, who was expected to make remarks, unfortunately did not make it to the occasion.

Also visibly absent from the exhibition were officials of the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), something which many saw as an obvious sign of government’s lack of interest in the creativity of its citizens.

Artists that presented their works at the Exhibition included: Duke Appleton of Artists without Borders, Frank Dwuye the illustrator of the Tabellah Tee comic book series, Hip CO artist Luckay Buckay, and renowned artist Leslie Lumeh.

Mr. Best said that since 1981, the Daily Observer has maintained its commitment to promote Liberian creative arts, giving weekly exposure, every Thursday, to artists and their works, as well as to entertainment, poetry, short stories, style. The aim is to give creative Liberians exposure and a voice.

“Our efforts are aimed at encouraging more creativity and innovation among our citizens, for through art the ills of society are exposed. We need more of our people to recognize and support and encourage our artists in all spheres—art, painting, dance, drama, music and acrobatics,” Mr. Best stated.

“I look forward to a day when we will have nationwide concerts and dramas.” He recalled that as a student at the Booker Washington Institute, especially after Professor Moses K. Weefur was appointed principal, the students were involved in drama and music, including classical music, such as Handel’s Messiah and “The Beautiful Blue Danube.” Mr. Weefur got musicians, including Mr. Alfred Collins, a noted Liberian organist and music teacher, and Mrs. Viola McCrae Gray, a piano expert, to come to the campus in Kakata weekly to train the choir for performances during Founders Day and Commencement. Mr. Best called on all high school principals and even primary ones to emulate Moses Weefur’s example, in order to help develop the creative and artistic talents of their students.

Mr. Best said he also looked forward to the day that these innovative and talented Liberians will actually benefit from their talents and labor, and be able to live by these as creative artists in other parts of the world are doing.

He called on “the government and the wealthy among us to take a serious, active and supportive interest in the creative arts, in order to enhance the creativity of our young, and citizenry in general,” the publisher averred.

He insisted that “every Liberian needs to get involved in the helping to develop the creativity of our youth,” he stressed.

Former Minister of MICAT, the Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, who also attended the exhibition, said: “Visual art depicts the culture and the negative and positive aspects of our nation.”

He lauded the contribution of the National Museum of Liberia, which is housed in the old building in which the Liberian National Legislature was housed, just next to the Centennial Pavilion. “The place we are standing today is of great historical significance,” he declared.

Rev. Bowier urged the gathering to be inspired by the paintings on display and buy them, as this will empower our artists to do more.

“These paintings are historical because they tell us everything affecting our state; they connect our minds with the society, arousing our emotions and inspiring a change of behavior,” he added.

The Executive Director of LiVArts, Leslie Lumeh, said: “Our working relationship with Accountability Lab has been very productive. We hope the exhibition will have a significant impact on the lives of many of you.”

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