MONROVIA, Montserrado – At a recent one-day art exhibition organized by the Accountability Lab and the Liberia Visual Arts Academy, young artists showcased their artistic works portraying peace, democracy, society, and Liberia’s everyday life.
The program took place on Friday, June 26 at the National Museum under the theme, “Liberia’s Quest for Integrity.”
The arts festival featured 12 Liberian artists with a variety of styles including paintings, cartoons, and graphic illustrations. They included Duke Appleton of Maryland, Frank Dwuye of Montserrado, Leslie Lumeh of Grand Cape Mount, Isaac Doubor of Grand Gedeh, Amos Boyee of Bong, Samuel Hwisedeh of Montserrado, Overcomer Kamara of Grand Cape Mount, Tubman Tweh of Sinoe, Lucia Lawson of Nimba, Geneka Gibson of Montserrado, Fumba Kromah of Montserrado, and Luckay Buckay Bantoe of Nimba.
The artists, most of whom were members of the youth, said they saw art as crucial to shift the minds of young people in order to serve as agents of positive change in Liberia.
According to Appleton, whose work was featured, many young people have these artistic abilities but they often lack support. “We have talents and skills but there’s no encouragement from those who have the money to improve our work,” he said.
Appleton continued, “When we get the support from people, this will help us do more in our work. But for now, more people don’t have time for it and this is very important for the young people.”
He suggested that the professions in the arts are not respected in Liberian society, therefore some elders steer the youth away from pursuing those careers, in favor of jobs in healthcare or business. “I don’t want for people to be deterred [from the arts],” Appleton said.
He called on the government to pay more attention to the industry. Appleton himself is already taking action, as he is in the late stages of plans to establish an art school for children.
Lawson, the only female featured in the exhibition, said she grew up in an artistic family. “I started since 1999, making my own paintings as they [would] flow through my mind,” she said. Lawson said she has integrated art in so much of her life that she has “so many designs in my phone” of projects on which she plans to work.
Speaking at the exhibition was a long-time arts promoter, Kenneth Y. Best, who is the publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper in Liberia. The Daily Observer is one of a few newspapers in Liberia that consistently features cartoons.
Best said it would take a collective effort by all Liberians to support and grow the art industry. He emphasized the need to educate the youth on the importance of art. “Schools administrators need to start developing their students’ minds and talents, which will expose them to opportunities,” he said.
Best encouraged parents to teach their children the country’s culture and languages, which he said will open their minds to Liberia’s norms and values.
He anticipates the day when every county will produce a cultural village in which ancestral arts will be displayed and Liberians will love their own product. He called on the government and all Liberians to prioritize the Liberian artistic work to improve the industry.
Featured image of “Cold Water” by Frank Dwuye, courtesy of Jim Tuttle