The author of the newly-published 400-page book “Between The Kola Forest & The Salty Sea” says there should be a new paradigm shift among Liberians to enable them to appreciate the contribution of their ancestors to the land that eventually came to be known as Liberia.
Prof. C. Patrick Burrowes informed a roomful of people at the Bella Casa Hotel on Friday, May 25, in Monrovia that there is a Liberian renaissance emerging in the art sector of the country.
“The outpouring of grieve by thousands of Liberians at the death of musician Quincy B should convince you that there is a new sense of understanding about things that are creative, including music, in the country,” he noted.
Though his book, “Between the Kola Forest & The Salty Sea,” recounts the history of the Liberian people before 1800, that is, long before the pioneers reached the Grain Coast and before the formation of the Liberian state, Prof. Burrowes spent considerable time speaking about the negatives that are prevalent in the Liberian society.
He said Liberians can rise up to do much of the tasks that seem insurmountable only when they begin to have an appreciation of their ancestors’ positive contributions not only to the country’s past but also to the development of West Africa. “We must begin to tell the Liberian story from different sources and means,” Prof. Burrowes said, “and not remain complacent about what others have said our ancestors did or did not do.”
He pointed out that very often, Liberians are heard to describe themselves as a people who are not capable to make any contribution to their own lives. “You can hear people say, Liberians are lazy; Liberians don’t know how to do business; Liberians can’t be trusted, adding that these negatives should be replaced with the positives that we are capable of doing to make the changes that we see should happen to our people,” he said.
Prof. Burrowes believes that a people can write their own history better than any outsider. He indicated that the publication of “Between The Kola Forest & The Salty Sea” should serve as the beginning point to get Liberians of all walks of life to discuss the country’s history.
As the author moved from one corner to another with emphasis, for example, he stressed the need for Liberians to claim their fame. Prof. Burrowes explained how it was our ancestors that inspired Pablo Picasso, a Spanish expatriate and one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, as well as the co-creator of Cubism who went on to become one of the greatest artists in Europe and is revered up to today.
Prof. Burrowes also explained how it is important for Liberians to come together to reclaim their fame because “we taught European explorers the current and winds of our Atlantic.” He also informed the audience how “our ancestors picked the best time to plant crops using astronomy,” long before the White man ever set foot on the continent.
“We need to come together, Liberians, to reclaim our fame because our ancestors were innovators who, where there was no way, made a way,” he said, pointing to a picture of a monkey bridge representing the ingenuity of our ancestors.
Prof. Burrowes asserted that once we change the negative script that points to the Liberians in general as a nobody, we can begin to change our negative attitudes and be able to refocus on what he believes to be the new renaissance that is urging us to claim our past to build the future.
Speaking highly of hataye centers and locations where the poor hold discussions, Prof. Burrowes said sharing the history with our people, especially the unlettered, is one way of getting to the attitude change. More importantly, he wants Liberians to develop a new but positive mindset that can be used to write productive scripts about the country and about themselves.
“The paradigm shift that we have been waiting for is here,” Prof. Burrowes proclaimed, as the gathering paid rapt attention to his discourse.
By now he had gained the trust of his audience, and it became evident that they were with him. And like one of the ancient griots, who were the embodiment of history and knowledge, Prof. Burrowes moved up and down as he made his point on the large screen image of his material. In fact, this brief analysis cannot bring the best of the message, except if one has a copy of the book, to examine the issues that he took 30 years to complete.
As the author says in the preface, “This book illustrates what is possible when African history is written from an Africanist perspective,” the book’s core audience are Liberians, Guineans and Sierra Leoneans under age 40, since he believes that among those people is the hunger for answers to the deep questions of who they are that the book helps them to answer.
Meanwhile, Prof. Burrowes will give his next free lecture at Mamba Point Hotel on Thursday, June 7, 6-9pm.