Put the National Cultural Center Where It Belongs: in Bomi’s Dowein District

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Most of us have heard of Bai T. Moore, the celebrated Liberian and international cultural icon, who did so much for cultural reawakening in Liberia.

But how many of us have heard of Dwuala Bukele?  Well, he was the inventor of the Vai Script, the written  expression of the Vai language.  It was one of only two African languages that have their original scripts, unrelated to the Latin or Arabic alphabets.  In other words, they are original.

So what is the point about these two men?  What is the relationship between Bai T. Moore and Dwuala Bukele?   

Both of them hail from the same Dowein culture that links the Vais (Dwuala), Golas and the Deys (Bai T.).  These cultures have very deep and strong linkages with indigenous cultures that crisscross Montserrado, Margibi (especially the greater Kakata-Firestone area), Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Lofa and 

Gbarpolu counties.   It is in these cultures that the Porro and Sande traditions are strongest.

Bai T. Moore’s remains are buried in Dimeh.  Not far up the street from Dimeh is the Besao Cultural Village, a place that Bai T. frequently took cultural enthusiasts on pilgrimages.  We understand that some of the early Liberian kings are buried there. 

The point we are trying to make is that we know of no better place for the National Cultural Center that in the Dimeh-Besao areas.  But the Ministry of Information and the Liberian government want to plant the new Cultural Center in Marshall, a place totally alien to Liberian indigenous culture.  We know of no Porro or Sande bushes in Marshall, nor do we know of any substantial cultural groups in the area.  What we do remember is that when Mr. John Bestman opened his  motel in Marshall a few years ago, he invited Julie Endee and her Crusaders for Peace to do the cultural honors for Vice President Joseph N. Boakai and other dignitaries.

On the other hand, there are many cultural activities ongoing all of the time in Dimeh and Besao.  Both the Porro and Sande bushes are in Besao.  Unconfirmed sources say it was in Besao that President Tolbert joined the Porro Society.  We understand that in 1978 he accompanied the King of Lesotho to Besao.  And King Njola, one of the signers of the Land Treaty with the settlers, is buried in Besao.  Another very powerful historical figure, King Sao Boso, is buried not too far from Besao, in Gbarpolu, most probably in Bopolu, one of the county’s main towns.

This Dewoin area we are proposing for the location of the National Cultural Center is, it seems to us, the most natural place for such a center.  What is there in Marshall besides the fishing village of Fanti Town?  Yes, there is the proposed new headquarters of the Liberian Maritime Authority, but that is not a cultural but a marine institution.  They have their performances, but these are on the sea.  We hope that one day they will build a dry dock there for the repair of vessels traveling to West Africa.

Marshall is also a potentially great tourist destination.  We pray that it will be the home of at least two five-star hotels.  The tourists could travel from there to the Dowein District to see first class cultural performances.  That would be an expedition that tourists would fondly remember.

We trust that the government will see reason to change its mind about where to put the National Cultural Center and place it where it belongs, in the Dowein District, especially Besao, which already has an open air theatre and all other facilities relevant to a cultural village.  The people of Besao have made it plain that they would welcome the National Cultural Center in their area.  The culture is already there in abundance.  All that will be needed would be build a modern theatre, an Arts and Crafts Shop, and the 23 or more cultural villages to accommodate the acrobats, artists, dancers, dramatists, drummers, singers and all other cultural experts from Liberia’s 16 major ethnic groups. There, as they did for decades in Kendeja, they can dwell together in peace, harmony and creativity, practicing and refining their crafts and preparing to present their ingenious cultural displays to the nation and the world.

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