Preserving the Culture: A look at Liberian Culture and Traditions

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Tradition: The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation,  or the fact of being passed on in this way

Culture: The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement      regarded collectively

“The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation”…. from generation, to generation.

I was once asked by a Nigerian living here in Liberia, “What is Liberian culture?”. I was taken aback by the question. As an African woman, I know that I have a culture. I understand that I have a culture, but when I was asked what that culture is, I could not think of a way to answer it. What IS Liberian culture?…

There is this one-ness that is imagined when it comes to the various cultures and traditions in African nations. Especially the West African nations. Our fashion is similar, the foods are similar, the dance, the music, the traditions, and sometimes even the accent and the languages. When I was asked to explain what I believed to be Liberian culture, I realized that I, too, was thinking of the one-ness that is often associated with our cultures and traditions. “You know, we all share a similar culture”, I said, hoping it didn’t sound as ridiculous as it felt saying it.

It was then that I realized that I do not really understand my own culture as a Liberian, not because I do not want to, but because I know not where to begin.

For some reason, here in Liberia, the people want so badly to be something other than Liberian. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that we do not want to be Liberian, but we do not appreciate our own culture enough to showcase it. For that reason, we, as a nation, often imitate the traditions and practices of other nations. We hold other nations at higher regard than our own. As a result, my generation and those younger than me are lost. Our languages are not celebrated, and our traditions are not celebrated, and so, we are wandering aimlessly searching for ourselves as a nation. Because we do not value and appreciate the culture we have, it is not being passed down from generation to generation. Our languages and traditions are dying because we want so badly to be like the western world. We crave development so much, we are willing to sell our values and our culture to attain it. Butttt…. I refuse to sit and allow that to happen.

On August 6, I brought together two beautifully talented young Liberian women — Model Naomi Cassel, and Photographer and fellow Blogger at the Liberia Social Market (libsocialmarket.com), Meskora Samuella Amousu— together for a photo shoot, which I felt needed to happen in beginning my journey of discovering my culture as a Liberian. The shoot was centered on traditional Liberian wear in a modern-day village setting. On a drive to Nimba County a few weeks back, I realized just how beautiful it is up-country. We are so focused on Monrovia and its city life, we tend to forget the beautiful landscapes outside of the city. With this shoot, which took place in a remote village on the outskirts of Careysburg, we managed to showcase both the beauty of our traditional Liberian fashion, and that of the country side. I hope that through this shoot, more Liberians can can develop a greater appreciation for the land beyond Monrovia, and journey on with me in developing a deeper understanding of our culture and traditions.

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