“Inspiring Their Creativity”

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Baba Shabu (rear) with art students at the Foundation for Recreation and Children Education (FORCE) in Gbarnga, Bong County. The children always greet Baba with a "Karibu Wazee" ("Welcome elders" in Kiswahili) and he salutes them too with a fist up.

The visual arts departments of three schools are coming together to present their students’ work in the gallery of the Liberia National Museum. The three schools are Foundation for Recreation and Children Education (FORCE) in Gbarnga, Bong County, founded by S. Tornorlah Varpilah; Women and Children Education Art Gallery in Oldest Congotown, founded by Abu Fofana; and Haweh Academy, in New Georgia, founded by Mrs. Marinda Freeman-Badio.

The exhibition is coordinated by Baba and Mama Shabu who have been curating National Museum exhibitions since 2011 including the first exhibition after the museum’s reopening in 2017. The Shabus have also been working with school children and their teachers for years, helping the kids develop their sense of creativity and helping their teachers to observe and nurture creativity in their students.

“Our national museum is like our mirror,” say the Shabus. “It shows who we are – our history.  And the 3rd floor gallery of the museum mirrors the beauty we can become – our future. And so, for our future, our children’s art exhibition, ‘Inspiring Their Creativity’ should be the next exhibition in that gallery.”

And they would know, having practiced, produced and had taught creative arts at the elementary, tertiary and professional levels for well over 50 years, across Africa and in the United States of America.

There’s an old maxim, “The media is the mirror of society”, which many people tend to relate purely to what is considered ‘mainstream media’ – newspapers, magazines, radio, television. And though the mainstream media is derived from the creative solutions that make media attractive, relevant and marketable, such creative solutions are often identified more in terms of the technological tools used to bring them about, and less in terms of the creative vision – the big ideas that get the ball rolling. The reality, however, is that creative media – and the tools that make them – cannot be produced without the cultural context to give it relevance.

The children’s art exhibition is the first event of the Shabu @ 90 art exhibition, slated for December 2018.

The Shabus agree. “The whole idea is that we need to increase our creativity and our trust in our creativity. Instead of just doing things because the establishment has set it up a certain way… we have to be creative to figure out what works best for us. It’s got to start with the children – if they are taught to be creative and allowed to be creative; not always told to draw and what to draw but, just by explaining it, let them draw it. Instructors need to learn to see and hear and nurture creativity in children.

“We want people to see that creativity starts from the youngest and, if we start them off now (allowing and nurturing creativity), then when they are capable of contributing to society, they will be able to use that creativity to move Liberia forward,” they say.

The children’s art exhibition opens Tuesday, December 11, 2018 on the third floor of the Liberia National Museum on Broad Street, Monrovia. The exhibition will feature paintings, drawings and some textile designs from kids ages 6-15 years old.

This is actually the first event of a larger exhibition, titled: “Shabu @ 90”, featuring Baba’s latest works.

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