The outstanding contribution of Dr. Syrulwa Somah to make Liberians to return to the culture and value of our tradition, so as to give us an identity through literary works, is a reminder that Liberia has had 4000 years of civilization.
Liberia has a terrible reputation of underrating its own cultural identity over borrowed ones. This is evidence by the lack of a national cultural festival among her tribes. The Poro and Sande Schools served this nation as university of discipline and character excellence before the arrival of western education.
“Even with these difficult challenges, I still believe that Liberia has the potential to become a place where culture is valued,” he said.
According to Dr. Somah, a Liberian historian who had a lengthy interview with the Daily Observer last Friday, “Unless Liberians embrace our history, environment, culture and folklore; our country will continue to be underdeveloped.
“But by embracing our history and culture, Liberians can build a solid foundation for the next generation,” said Dr. Somah, “who will be able to look into the past with understanding and boast with greater pride that we kept their ancestors identity.”
Contribution to literature
Dr. Somah has authored numerous books, including “The Historical Resettlement of Liberia and its Environment Impact; Nyanyan Gohn-Manan: History, Migration & Government of the Bassa and Colonization and State of African Spirituality.
He co-authored “djojbachauchuwa” a collection of Liberia literary anthology, the first of kind.
“If we the educated refuse to write down accurate and concise history of our ancestors, then who will?” he asked
Dr. Somah, a graduate of the Poro Society said other countries around the world have a written history preserving their ancestors’ culture and tradition.
“Because of this, I have dedicated my life to write about the culture and tradition of Liberia, to stir the minds of it citizens toward the importance of upholding their identity,” he explained.
Dr. Somah is currently working on a literary odyssey highlighting the Bassa people’s culture, tradition and belief, called ‘Duankadyu: The Legend of the Bassa (son born noon).”
The book is due in May, this year and about 50,000 copies will be released.
“Duankadyu: The Legend of the Bassa’s origin stretched back to the creation of the universe, and its evolution spins several millennia,” he narrated.
The book ‘Duankadyu’ when it is published might be the greatest legendary book that explains about a particular tribe’s ancestors.
“The book has a fascination message of creation and the separation of humans from the arranger of the world, Geleplo, the creator of oneself,” said Dr. Somah. “It will become apparent to the reader that this legend is much than a story of people, places and events, with its sacred legend of the faith of the Bassa people and their relationship with the creator God, or Geleplo.”
“No matter what our education level and social standing in the society, we stand to lose our intrinsic cultural value and identity as humans without respect to our cultural norms,” Dr. Somah, quoted Rev. Joseph M.N. Gbadyu, former Superintendent of Grand Bassa County, a cultural historian.
Dr. Somah as a Statesman
When Dr. Somah is not writing about Liberia History he is working as a statesman.
As Executive Director of the nonprofit Liberian History, Education & Development (LIHEDE) Dr. Somah supervised the developnment of Liberian Studies curriculum with an environmental track for degree consideration at the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD levels in Liberian institutions of higher learning.
In late 2004 on behalf of the organztion, he signed a memorandum of understanding with two Liberian universities, A.M.E. Zion University (AMEZU) and African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) in Monrovia, to commence the first degree program in Liberian Studies.
At the beginning of the 2006 academic year, AMEU became the first higher learning institution in Liberia to embrace that program; later in 2008 Cuttington University added an African Studies Division to its program.
For more than two years Dr. Somah has championed the need to revise Liberian history through LIHEDE which gained national momentum.
In 2004, he organized a letter writing campaign to alert world leaders, including former US President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and others about the high rate of malaria related deaths in Liberia.
Because of his tireless efforts of Dr. Somah, in 2006 the first Liberian malaria control and prevention international health conference was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Liberian universities and other groups in Monrovia.
Later that year, after the confrence an amazing thing happened from the efforts of Dr. Somah, an invitation from the US Embassy in Liberia came for him to witness the historic announcement by President Bush, via satellite, that Liberia could benefit from the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) funds.
As a focus nation, Liberia became directly eligible to receive over US$70 million in aid for malaria control and prevention.
Education, Teaching and Awards
Dr. Syrulwa Somah attended the Poro ‘University’ in Liberia where he learned discipline and character excellence.
He also has two graduate degrees from Central Michigan University and the University Oklahoma. He earned his Ph.D. from
Union Institute and Universities in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Somah is currently the Vice President for Research, Sponsored Programs and Economic Development at the W.V.S. Tubman University (TU) in Maryland County –Liberia.
Before joining TU, he taught at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, as Graduate Program Coordinator. He had also taught at the Bangalore University in India, and a visiting Faculty at the Kwame University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana.
He has earned himself numerous awards. In 2008 he received the Liberia Image Award, a life time award for state-of-the-art research devoted to post-reconstruction of Liberia.
A year later in 2009 he was received the Africa Environmental Watch Humanitarian Award. But in 2007, he won double awards from NCA and The State University in the US as ‘Teacher of the Year’ and ‘Faculty Innovator Award.’
Also in 2010 he won the Fulbright Award for malaria control innovation in India.