Oh Liberia, the sweet land of Liberty. 172 years of independence to be proud of, but seemingly not much else within those years to take pride in. With a complicated history of division and oppression, the streets are left stained with reminders of her demons, resulting in a nation too traumatized to be whisked away by the soft and sweet breeze kissing our cheeks daily. In the midst of it all, though, what we think are the factors that divide us are actually the same factors that bind us together as a people.
As we prepared to celebrate our 172nd year of independence this year, Sean Gibson, a force in Liberia’s small creative industry, approached us with a creative concept that blew us away. He said, “I think we need to feature RL with you this 26”. Immediately, my heart leaped at the thought of using the Koloqua Dialogues as a platform to merge with the story of the woman known as the Republic of Liberia. I called her, Ms. Celestine G. Sepoe, for a meeting to conceptualize it all to her. As she sat there in all her red white and blue glory, I stared at her in absolute admiration. It was like looking at a possible future, basking and glowing in her love for this sweet land of liberty we all get to call home.
“How did you come to be called RL?”, I asked. Like many stories of triumphs, it was a long one; however, I was patient.
“After I was stripped of the Liberian flag when the army was disbanded after the war, I wanted to show those who took that away from me that they can take the army clothes, but the flag of Liberia is and will forever be my own.” She said. “And so, I decided to extend my patriotism to the flag and Republic of Liberia and started showing my loyalty to the country starting with the flag.” She continued. Since then, RL has dedicated her entire life and wardrobe to the colors of the Liberian flag.
Visiting her home in Sinkor, Monrovia, I was greeted with the flag of Liberia painted on the front wall, only to enter and be filled with the spirit of the nation incited by her dedication the colors. As Burna Boy would say, the gbedu dey enter body. In all though, I felt and am still so inspired by this incredible and fierce woman that has established herself as an icon in Liberian history. From her joining the army to safeguard the nation, to her march and cries for peace with the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace during Liberia’s devastating time of war. She is a symbol of the possibilities of Liberia, and an embodiment of its rich history of fiercely resilient people.
So, how could we do justice to the legacy that is the Republic of Liberia through photography? Sean and I expanded the concept, bringing on board another creative force, Photographer and Digital Artist, Meskora. It was a trio made in Liberian creative heaven, as we all worked together with RL to explore our identities as Liberians — Native, Congau, et el. While sometimes those words bring about grim reminders of their history of oppression, they are the words that make up the identities of Liberians. They are not there to divide us, but are there as reminders of the beautiful marriage of Liberia.
Additionally, we are proof of the resilience of the Black race, which suffers in some to this day in every country on this planet due to the color of our skin. Likewise, the creation of Liberia is also proof of the resilience of our brothers and sisters who were forcefully taken from the African continent and enslaved for hundreds of years – stripped of their identities and infused with hatred, oppression, and torture. The survival of our people, Native and Congau, despite the generations of oppression we have had to endure, both at the hands of outside forces and that of each other, is a testament of the poetic wealth that makes up Liberian history.
And so, I say this unto you all, my people. As we enter into another year of our independence, let us all learn from Ms. Celestine G. Sepoe, our Republic of Liberia (RL), and dedicate our daily decisions to the soil, land, and flag of Liberia, rather than any tough situation we may find ourselves in. we must not pledge our loyalties to any single entity or individual, as the land will supersede those individuals and entities.
Liberia may seemingly have more to be embarrassed about, rather than take pride in, but I urge you all to look beyond what meets the eye and appreciate the land for all that it has given us. Everything we are not proud of about Liberia are all consequences of man-made decisions, our individual ones included, and so we must check ourselves and what we are doing to fix the things that we can, which will make our country and land a place to be proud of. China or America cannot make our country worth our pride and patriotism for us because they do not feel and breathe the spirit and nature that makes us Liberians. God chose this land for us, and he chose us for this land, and we must live out our divine purpose and do right by her.
Liberia: The Love of Liberty Brought Us Together
Creative Direction: Sean Gibson
Styling/Modeling: Adrienne Tingba, Celestine Sepoe (RL)
Photography: Meskora Amoussou