The publisher and managing director of the Daily Observer, Kenneth Y. Best, says that forgetting Liberian cultural hero, Bai T. Moore, and relocating the Liberian Culture Center to Marshall, manifests ingratitude on the part of the Liberian government to the long-time cultural icon, poet and novelist.
Speaking in Dimeh Town in Bomi County last Friday at a program marking the 26th anniversary of Bai T. Moore’s death, Mr. Best described Mr. Moore as a patriot in the cultural realm who along with a few others, put Liberia on the cultural map of the world. But the publisher wondered why the Liberian Government and the Ministry of Information are running away from Bai T. Moore.
He recalled that a few years back the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs & Tourism under pension scheme gave LD$300 to Bai T. Moore’s widow, and later increased to a thousand Liberian Dollars.
“Could this be what Bai T. Moore should get in this country with all the sacrifices he made to lift Liberian culture?” Mr. Best asked.
He recalled that the National Cultural Center at Kendeja had been closed, giving way to construction of the RLJ Hotel where, unlike the Cultural Center, no Liberian can have access to except one who is financially potent.
“What do Liberians go there for? Food, yes, but what is there that can be particularly called Liberian?”
Many years have elapsed since the National Cultural Center was closed and very little or no attention has been given to its revival. It would seem as though Bai T. Moore and others who promoted culture in this country are now totally forgotten.
He noted that the cultural center was a place where people used to go to be entertained and learn about Liberian Culture, but now no Liberian can boast of learning from his/her culture because they have nowhere to go and learn it.
Making reference to his son Bai Best, Mr. Best said he and his wife Mae Gene, upon their return from Nairobi, Kenya, in 1980 to start the Daily Observer, made it a habit of taking their children regularly to the Cultural Center at Kendeja to expose them to their culture. Bai was only four when he and his siblings were taken to the culture center. It was then that he watched the celebrated Liberian acrobat, Jacob Dweh from Grand Gedeh County mingling his little body in all directions. At one point, Jacob started walking on his two hands on the ground with his legs in the air.
“When we returned home, Bai had become so inspired by Jacob Dweh that upon entering our home at Voker Mission, Bai immediately started doing the same thing he had seen Jacob do. To our amazement, Bai started walking on his hands with his two legs behind him in the air. “Today at 35,” Mr. Best told his Dimeh audience, “Bai can still perform that feat. I tell this story to emphasize how important culture is to a people. It inspires them and fills them with creativity, empowering them to do things they would not ordinarily do. Bottom line, we play with our culture at our own peril. We will never know how much we are losing—we and most especially our children.”
He also recalled his encounter with an Italian family during a visit to Italy in early 1970s. He saw a couple take their infant child to visit an old Italian ship.
Having asked why they would take the baby to that occasion, their answer was to instill the culture of the land in the baby at early age so that they would grow to know it and appreciate their country’s contribution to world civilization.
The assertive Manager and veteran Liberian Journalist also frowned on Government for relocating the National Cultural Center in Marshall in where he said there were, “yes, beautiful beaches and a fishing village named Fanti Town. But what is in Marshall that represents the genesis of Liberian Culture?
Mr. Best made reference to a four-year old child marvelously performed a cultural dance during the occasion in Dimeh. He observed that she had not been chosen as one of the dancers of the day, but ununiformed, she started dancing because it was in her blood. Mr. Best said the performance of the little girl clearly demonstrates that Liberian Culture originated from counties including Margibi, Montserrado, Bong, Lofa, Gbarpolu, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount. “This Dowein District, including Cape Mount, Bomi and Gbarpolou, is the center of our culture, having produced such eminent figures as Bai T. Moore and Dwualu Bukele, the inventor of the Vai Script.
Mr. Best strongly recommended and called on government to relocate the National Cultural Center to Bomi. This would not only get people to remember Bai T. Moore, Liberia’s Cultural hero who wrote many books about Liberian Culture and always dressed to reflect his culture. The culture is already here, as seen by the three female masked dancers that brilliantly entertained the Dimeh audience last Friday.
For Sando Moore, one of Bai T. Moore’s surviving sons, he expressed that his late father did much for the country to promote Liberian Culture, but he (Bai T. Moore) is now totally forgotten.
Sando said since his father died 26 years ago, the Government of Liberia has not organized a program or built anything in his memory to symbolize and remind people about the great work he did to promote Liberian Culture.
As Liberia’s leading photo Journalists and publisher of the Images Magazine, Mr. Moore contended that it is better to honor people who are honest and dedicated to work of the country than to glorify corrupt people who misuse and abuse their country for their selfish gains.
The ceremony marking 26 years of Bai T. Moore’s death was attended by high profile government officials including House Speaker Alex Tyler, Bomi County Senator and Chairman of the Bomi Legislative Caucus, Lahai Gbabye Lansanah and County Representative S. Gayah Karmo. Also in attendance was former Liberian Ambassador to China and former Bomi Legislative aspirant, Madam Neh Dukuly-Tolbert, former Bomi County Senator Richard Divine, Dewein District Commissioner Foley Siryon, who is a former Daily Observer photographer, and Dey Governor Blama Gaye. Other eminent citizens present included Madam Musu Kiadii of the National Governors Council of Liberia, Demeh Women Group Chairlady, Janet Rogers, Siafa Ballah, son of the late culture promoter Peter Ballah (Flomo), and Morris Johnson, a classroom teacher.
Madam Neh Dukuly Tolbert thanked Sando Moore for inviting her to the occasion, and said she wholeheartedly agreed with Mr. Best that the National Cultural Center needed to be relocated in the Bomi area, where Liberian culture is already vibrant and I being practiced on a daily basis. She pledged to lobby for the Center to be relocated in its natural habitat.
Responding to concerns raised by Mr. Best and Moore, House Speaker Alex Tyler said the people of Bomi are partly responsible for the neglect of their father and son, the late Bai T. Moore. The Bomi people have not been assertive enough, he admitted.
But this will change, he declared. “The county has capable men and women who should keep the flame of Bai T. Moore burning. And we will do what we have to do.
Speaker Tyler said he concurred with the views of K.Y. Best that the National Cultural Center should be relocated to Bomi, where Liberian culture is already in action. He said he would approach the President of Liberia for prompt action.
Among some of Bai T. Moore’s publications for which he is widely known are Murder in the Cassava Patch, Ebony Dust, a collection of poems and Gola Boy in America.