... Now a cultural Hub
The once-glamorous but later abandoned birth home of Liberian poet, novelist, folklorist, and essayist Bai. T. Moore has received a major makeover.
The house, in the village of Dimeh, 20 miles from Monrovia, along the Bomi Highway, has been refurbished and transformed into a cultural museum -- dedicated to promoting the lives of one of Liberia's greatest 20th-century authors as well as serving as a place for reflection on culture and storytelling. The house makeover by Rudolf Janke, a German national who is passionate about the restoration of Liberia's cultural heritage, will see the life works of the late literary genius serving as a personal connection to his private life: family history and upbringing.
The house had been abandoned for years – with the dust of each year accumulating on the physical legacy of Moore in his birthplace. But with this restoration, it is now a place where one can visit to rekindle their spirit in reflection of Moore’s life. Artifacts have also been collected and placed in the house to create an inspirational space.
“History and culture need to be respected by people for the future, even if they do not know,” Janke added. He further described the famous Liberian poet as a man who always had in mind, not to own things alone but was thinking of Liberia. With this house now, it will show how a great son of the soil, who is being forgotten, lived, how things were in a former time, and how we can remember him including his work and contributions, which continue to impact Liberian society today.”
Born Bai Tamia Johnson Moore was born on October 12, 1916, was a Liberian poet, novelist, folklorist, and essayist. He held various cultural, educational, and tourism posts both for the Liberian government and for UNESCO. He was the founder of Liberia's National Cultural Center. He is best known for his novella Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), the tale of a crime passionnel in a traditional Liberian setting. It became such a classic in Liberian literature that it is still taught in high schools.
He died on January 10, 1988.
Moore was born in Dimeh, a traditional Gola village along the Monrovia-Tubmanburg highway. He studied at local schools. For college, he traveled to the United States to study agriculture, graduating from Virginia Union University, a historically black college in segregated Richmond, Virginia. He returned to Liberia in 1941 to take up a post in the national civil service. He was also deeply interested in Liberian culture and society. Together with Roland T. Dempster and T. H. Carey co-edited the Liberian poetry collection, Echoes from the Valley: Being Odes and Other Poems (1947).
He was nominated to work for UNESCO on its Liberia desk. In 1957, he headed the government's Fundamental Education project, designed to bring education and information to rural parts of the country. President William Tubman appointed him as Under-Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs.
In 1962, Moore was one of a team of Vai scholars who took part in a conference at the University of Liberia to standardize the Vai script for modern usage. His first novella, Murder in the Cassava Patch, based on actual events was published In 196. It was highly popular, securing Moore's reputation as Liberia's best-known writer. His book's success helped Moore maintain his public position through some of the most turbulent years of Liberia's history.
Under the government of President Samuel Doe, Moore was appointed Minister for Cultural Affairs and Tourism. He held this position at the time of his sudden death at the age of seventy-one. After a state funeral at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, attended by cultural troupes from the Dey, Gola, Vai, Kpelle, Gbandi, and Gio tribes, Bai T. Moore was laid to rest in his native Dimeh.
Wilton Sankawulo wrote: "The best tribute we can pay to the memory of Bai Tee is making our culture part of our daily life, for culturally we are dressed in borrowed robes. Unless we replace these alien garments with ones of our own making, we will continue failing in all our attempts to build a society that can meet our needs and aspirations".
His earliest published poems appeared as part of the anthology Echoes from the Valley (1947). His first poetry collection was Ebony Dust (1962, reprinted 2001). He next published his novella, Murder in the Cassava Patch (1968), which has been called "a Liberian literary classic.” This short novel - which deals with the murder of a young Liberian girl by her jealous lover - has been part of Liberian school curricula since its publication. It explores traditional Liberian life, referring to human sacrifice and indigenous slavery, as well as contemporary mid-20th century attractions.
The Money Doubler (1976) is a novel about a trickster who convinces people to part with their cash on the promise that he will be able to use "African science" to double it. It also explores Liberian life from a realist perspective. He contributed one of the Four Stories by Liberian Writers, edited by Sankawulo in 1980. Together with Jangaba Johnson, he compiled a collection of Liberian folk tales entitled Chips from the African Story Tree (1967).
Now for more than three and a half decades following his death, his home which has totally been forgotten has been restored by a German national who has a strong tie to Liberia's historical figure due to his relationship with the late Peter Ballah, another culture icon who is from Dimeh.
That friendship helped to shape Janke’s philosophy from Ballah that “a country without a Culture, is a man without a head” — arguing that the fact that Liberia culture is respected in his country, it should be respected in Liberia too. He undertook the restoration of Moore’s home via his NGO, the Village People Empowerment (ViPeE), in partnership with Flomo Theater Inc, and other partners.