THE LIGHT WITHIN

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How does an artist begin to describe the unique individual spirit within every person? How, in fact, does a visual artist represent this “essence” of the human soul on canvas, with the use of what medium and in what colors and shades? These were the challenges facing renowned Liberian visual artist and illustrator Leslie Lumeh when he was invited to participate in an artistic presentation highlighting creative talent from the entire African continent last year.

Sponsored mainly by The African Development Bank, the exhibition, titled “Lumieres d’Afriques” (“The Enlightened Africa”), first opened in Europe at the National Theatre of Chaillot in Paris, France last year, and was launched in April for the first time on the African continent during programs held in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan.

An historic first of its kind, the exhibition is the brainchild of the African Artists for Development (AAD) organization, under its current co-chairman Gervanne Leridon, and presented 54 African artists displaying works in a wide variety of creative mediums, with one each from the 54 nations on the continent.

Lumeh, with an interesting visual painting done in acrylic on canvas and titled “The Light Within”, was the proud representative of Liberia.

Twelve of the artists from West Africa were in the Ivory Coast on April 27th for the official opening of the exhibition (www.lumieresdafriques.com), where Leslie joined his colleagues for an exciting series of activities to launch the six week show at the multi-layered halls of the Fondation Donwahi, a well-known center for the creative arts in Abidjan.

Leslie Lumeh is no stranger to the art scene, both locally and internationally, and with a solid background of artistic engagements and activities over the last 20 years, he was naturally a prime candidate to be chosen to represent Liberia in such a continental event.

Just last March in Monrovia he contributed an important side event to a dinner held at the residence of the French Ambassador to Liberia. At the invitation of His Excellency Joel Gadeaux, Leslie mounted an exhibition of 16 paintings as a compliment to an annual affair celebrating French gastronomy. In remarks at the occasion Ambassador Gadeaux congratulated Leslie for his artistic progress, adding that participation in the Lumieres d’Afriques project makes him a national asset all Liberians should be proud of.

On his recent return from Abidjan, Leslie described how exciting it was for him to share the stage with other distinguished African artists from around the continent. He expressed his gratitude to all in his community here in Monrovia and immediate circle, especially his family, friends and close associates, who have motivated him over the years to arrive at this stage in his career.

Commenting on the painting he presented, Leslie stated how he believes the real “light” of the African continent can actually be seen through the people of Africa themselves…by the things they do as individuals (whether poet, politician, painter, health worker, peace maker, etc.), as well as the accomplishments they make collectively, as separate independent countries or as regional organizations and associations.

He therefore executed the work almost entirely in monochromatic black and white, punctuating it with colored figures to indicate the light in each person, with some of the people done in very bright colors, some in not so bright and others with no light at all. This he said is to show how “some of us have very strong light as opposed to others who have not so strong light and still others who shine no light at all.”.

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