Liberia is a land of rich tradition, history and culture. But nowadays, traditional stories which are to be passed down from one generation to another for an important life lesson, are not being told.
This situation has left thousands of young Liberians unfamiliar with their heritage and the history of culture. Nevertheless, on November 29, 2019, iconic folklore singer Yatta Zoe will launch a nationwide cultural campaign to reawaken a passion for storytelling among Liberians of all ages to change the narrative.
“Traditional storytelling is one of the greatest tools we have to build not only the curiosity and creativity of our children but also their sense of empathy and belonging. It allows us to build connections with each other by passing on knowledge and providing a shared experience, while at the same time being important building blocks of literacy learning,” Madam Zoe noted.
The iconic traditional folk songstress, who is widely known by many as the queen of traditional Liberian music, has toured Africa, Europe, and America where she networked with renowned singers like the late Fela Kuti and thelate South African Mariam Makeba.
Ma Yatta Zoe, as she was affectionately called by peers released several hit songs including “You took my Lappa, ‘All the Pocket Pickers’ and ‘Young Girl Stop Drinking Lysol.’
In the latter part of her career, she worked as a costume designer, recruitment officer and trainer of the former national culture troupe at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism and took part in several international arts and culture festivals.
The theme of her new initiative, “Telling Stories, Not Lies”, will kick off with the Mano River Youth Heritage Awareness Fest.
According to the folklore singer, the “Telling Stories, Not Lies” is intended to encourage factual storytelling among older generations to attract young people’s attention to the truth rather than lies.
“We need to start telling our traditional stories or else we will lose our identity. Traditional stories need to be told because they teach us lessons, instill morals and values and often, simply to entertain us. These storytelling moments stay with us throughout our lives and become some of our most cherished memories.”
“Factual storytelling not only encourages a great way of learning about one tradition but also teaches us important lessons in life and builds a sense of unity, she said.”
Madam Zoe further explained that during the launch of the heritage fest, she will highlight former President William V.S. Tubman’s cultural vision for the future generation and what can be done to achieve it.
“President Tubman might not be loved by everybody, but he was a passionate cultural enthusiast. If all Liberians can emulate his passion for culture, we will not be suffering from cultural identity crisis,” Madam Zoe added. “Currently, Liberia is at a crossroad when it comes to culture promotion and preservation. If nothing is done in time, we will not be able to redeem the situation.”
Madam Zoe will launch her initiative to revitalize Liberia’s lost cultural heritage and historic properties on Thursday, November 28, 2019 at the Cachelle Courtyard on Cheeseman Avenue in Sinkor.
On Friday, November 29, Madam Zoe will stage the first Mano River Youth Heritage Awareness Fest, under the theme: Telling Stories, Not Lies. The program will be held on Providence Island, Monrovia.