As Villagers showcase mastery in canoeing, acrobatics, traditional dance
For the second straight year, Fuamah District in Bong County staged its annual cultural festival displaying some of the remarkable traditional skills and practices of the people passed down from their ancestors. The event, held on on January 18, brought together contestants from the District townships of Haindii, Mawa, Coconut Farm, Gaikpellei and Dobli Island who enthusiastically competed in several activities on the St. Paul River and in Haindii, the District’s headquarter.
Spectators from other townships and natives of Fuamah residing in Kakata, Monrovia, Gbarnga and other parts showed up to enjoy the exciting events organized by a committee led by Fuamah native, Mr. Joseph P. Keller, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Liberia International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR). Mr. Keller launched the festival in January 2019, the first of its kind in the District to promote unity and goodwill among the local citizens and to keep their sporting and other traditional skills alive.
The first competition of the day was a heated canoe race which took place on the St. Paul River at the Gaikpellei crossing point. Four teams of four peddlers each from Gaikpellei, Mawah, Dobli Island and Haindii towns undertook the race to cross and return on the St. Paul River using one canoe one team at a time.
According to the judges, Dobli Island took the first place completing the race in 2 minutes and 45 seconds, taking away a healthy cash prize presented by Mr. Rufus Barclay. Haindii won second place by finishing in 3 minutes 3 seconds, earning a cash prize presented by Mr. Mulbah, an elder of the District.
Mawah won 3rd place in 3 minutes 19 seconds cheerfully accepting a cash prize presented by Elder Enstern Giddings. Gaikpellei trailed in fourth in 3minutes 56 seconds. These constants received their awards at Gaikpellei Waterside.
The other activities of the day were staged in Haindii village starting with an exciting bucket race. About a dozen female contestants from Haindii, Coconut Farm, Mawa Town, and Dobli Island vied to run a distance of about 30 meters balancing a full bucket of water on their heads. They ran in groups of four reaching the length and returning to the starting point without their buckets falling over. The spectators cheered as the women fought to keep their buckets balanced, many of course without success. Coconut Farm toke first place after the final of a two round competition and walked away with a hefty cash prize.
Mrs. Mae Gene Best of the Daily Observer, who hails from Fuamah, presented the prize to the first winner and urged her to come back for the 2021 competition to display her remarkable balancing skill. She also encouraged the people of Fuamah District to participate in greater numbers in next year’s competitions. The contestant from Mawa Town won the second place and the third winner came from Dobli Island. The runner up cash prizes were presented by Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, Publisher of the Daily Observer and Mr. Gola Traub, Director of Public Relations of the Liberia Maritime Authority, another Fuamah native.
The festival continued with a spellbinding traditional dance competition among the Fuamah townships. The dancers dressed in colorful traditional costumes came from Vanjah Town, Yabayei Town, Gaikpellei Town, all of Fuamah; Lango Town and Morris Farm of Mar-Gibi County. Accompanied by seasoned and skillful drummers the competitors thrilled the crowd with their incredible display of footwork and graceful dancing and acrobatic feats.
The men’s group pulled off spectacular acrobatic performances to the delight of spectators. Final results of the cultural dance performances, according to the judges, gave Lango Town first place, Morris Farm second place and Vanja Town came third. All the competing towns happily received sizable cash prizes.
At nightfall, the crowd made their way to Mr. Keller’s home where the final event of the day took place. This event was the telling of folk tales and singing of traditional songs. Female elders sang songs of the past as they moved gracefully in a circle.
The story tellers followed, narrating their stories handed down from many generations to the attentive crowd gathered around them.
Mr. Keller, who is a senior citizen of Haindii and principal sponsor of the Fuamah Festival, told the gathering that the festival was intended to unite them in the district. Mr. Keller challenged the clans to participate in greater numbers in the competitions that were intended to bring out their talents.
“Even the little children will remember what has taken place in the District,” he said, adding that everyone should remember the 3rd Saturday in January 2021 as the day of the next festival and no one should wait for an announcement for next year’s event. We will look for sponsors so that the prizes will be more substantial than this year, Mr. Keller promised.
He called on well-meaning citizens of Bong County and the districts to help support the initiative that will help villagers to work together as one big family.
The panel of judges for the various competitions included G. Zulo Barclay, John Monroe, Zwannah Massalay, Darie Crowford, and Musu Gbarta.
Sponsors of the 2020 festival were Mr. Joseph P. Keller, Mr. Amos L. Keller, USA; Daily Observer, Somai Traub of USA, and Sea Men’s Union of Liberia.