Once Upon an Iconic Time in Liberia


There once was a time in Liberia when things were much, much different. I try to sometimes fantasize about those times. In those fantasies, I imagine the true glamour of “Girl’s night out” when the big jues of the time would dress up in their congo or traditional gowns, dazzling in some of the finest beads and jewelry – but there is more.

I imagine they would all get in a taxi and head up to the ballroom at the palace up the hill, or go to the bar in Central Monrovia where Nina Simone would be playing live. As I get lost in my glamorous daydream of the paradise that once was Liberia, I think; what would be the best way to channel those times and pay tribute? And so, I thought of the most glamorous person recent Liberian fashion history has revealed to me, the wife of former Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor, Mrs. Tolbert.

As the first African (Liberian) woman to be featured on the cover of EBONY magazine, Mrs. Tolbert was featured wearing the Mandingo gown she wore to the 1944 inauguration of President William V.S. Tubman. As I admired her beaming on the cover of one of the most coveted Magazines featuring Black women at that time, I imagined what it would be like to be her friend. Were they just as glamorous? What was their Liberian experience like in comparison to that of mine and my friends today?

Immediately, I am then drawn back to the realities of today. The palace up the hill is now just a skeleton of past glory, while the club Nina Simone played in is now a beauty salon. How’s that for glamorous? Although, it’s not all so bad. Or at least that’s what I try to convince myself.

To be continued…

Photos by: King’s Experience

Location: Ducor Palace Hotel

Styling + Creative Direction: Adrienne Tingba

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