By Dr. Joe Gbaba |
Due to lack of cultural awareness and national consciousness, Liberians don’t appreciate the talents of their fellow Liberians. Usually, anything that is authentically Liberian is regarded as inferior and that which is foreign-based is regarded superb, even if it is a piece of stink poo-poo that is detrimental to the security and well-being of all Liberians! As a result, many Liberian talents are buried and unappreciated. Thus, the basic reason Dehkontee Artists Theatre was established forty-one years ago is to promote Liberian arts and culture and to proudly announce to the world that we have a limitless storehouse of talents whose works can uplift us spiritually and politically.
Therefore, today, we would like to acknowledge the kind artistic contributions of certain Liberian artists that have helped us to achieve our mission and vision over the past four decades, as an institution that is devoted to promoting the history and culture of Africa’s oldest republic—Liberia. Accordingly, this article is devoted to the artistic contributions of three outstanding Liberian artists but with focus on Mr. Harrison “Black Baby” Jiedueh, a member of the Board of Directors of Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI). We will use his fine examples and those of two other Liberian artists, to highlight the need for Liberians to stop envying one another but to work together to build a united and successful Liberia.
Our honoree, Honorable Harrison “BlackBaby” Jiedueh, joined the Honorable Body of Dehkontee Artists Theatre in 2015. He committed himself to serving on DATI’s Board of Directors and took on several responsibilities to serve as the chief artist, videographer, and web master of Dehkontee Artists Theatre. Since then, he performs all three functions pro bono simultaneously and satisfactorily. As a true “Geeklor Boy”, “BlackBaby” is very committed and altruistic, or unselfish and noble. His word is his bond. Besides, his love for his native land Liberia and his desire to give back to his country is manifested in his actions. Humble and intelligent and dutiful, Mr. Jiedueh lives up to what he promises to do, and he does it with diligence and respect.
As is characteristic of geniuses, Harrison never boasts of what he can do. Rather, he works silently day and night and maintains a low profile that makes it very difficult to discover his worth if one is not very observant or appreciative of the contributions a master craftsman artist of his genre can produce. Fortunately, his works speak volumes to those of us who are professionally trained to appreciate various works of art and their values in terms of promoting or enhancing the history and culture of a nation and people. Mr. Jiedueh’s photographs and video recordings are available on our official website for your viewing. Log on at: www.dehkonteeartiststheatreinc.com and click on “DATI’s Videos” to watch some of “BlackBaby”s works.
Because of his cooperation and photography, we can preserve great historical moments of Liberia’s past and present history through his creative visual representations. Also, due to Honorable Jiedueh’s active participation, millions of people around the world can log on DATI’s website to watch theatrical productions that reflect the true history and culture of Liberia. So, there is great benefit for all of us when we put aside our differences to work in the best interest of Liberia and all Liberians.
You Are Cordially Invited to DATI’s Mainstage Production of “Love for Mymah” July 28, 2018 at the International House Ibrahim Theatre in Philadelphia!
BlackBaby’s rendition of Lake Piso and a Vai village in Grand Cape Mount County in Western Liberia.
The painting posted above in this article is one of Mr. Jiedueh’s artistic creations. He was given a description of a scenery that would reflect Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount County in Western Liberia where our mainstage production “Love for Mymah” sets. The play is a love story between two Liberian royalties, Prince Jebro from Kru Coast, and Princess Mymah from Vai Land. What the author of the play attempts to portray is educate and entertain theatregoers about the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Liberia, since both the Vai and Kru ethnic groups represent two major linguistic groups in Liberia: the Mande speaking tribes that include Vai, Gola, Mah, Dahn, Lorma, Kpelle, Kissi, Gbandi, Mandingo; while the Krus represent the Kwa speaking groups that include Krahn, Kru, Grebo, Bassa, Deiweion, Gbi, Sapo, Belleh.
In addition, the love bond established between these two royals sociologically explains the dynamics of inter-ethnic marriage and how said socio-cultural bonds connect a nation and people as a conglomerate, or as a cohesive national hegemony. Thus, there is a deeper meaning to two persons from two different ethnic groups falling in love than meets the eye at first sight. Also, this is the reason it is important that education and culture be prioritized in the formation of national policies to promote peace, national unity, and patriotism among persons of varying cultural and political descent.
“Love for Mymah” will be staged at the International House Ibrahim Theater, 3701 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. The show starts at 8 PM. Please come to support a worthy cause. Funds raised will be used to launch a cultural awareness program on some local radio stations in Liberia. Admissions is as follows:
- Grand Patron: $100
- Patron: $50
- Adult: $25
- Seniors: $15
Liberians Must Stop Being Envious and Negative-Minded
Mr. Jiedueh’s astute patriotic and well-cultivated behavior is not characteristic of some typical modern-day Liberians who are self-centered, unpatriotic, and envious of the success or talents of their fellow compatriots. Besides, the idea of volunteering or giving back to their country, or even collaborating with their compatriots peacefully and successfully, seems far-fetched or nonexistent. Hence, it has become a taboo these days for Liberians to work together in the best interest of the Liberian people and nation without easily breaking up. To add insults to injury, unpatriotic Liberians prefer to heap praises on a Lebanese, or other foreigners than to acknowledge the greatness and creativity of their own fellow Liberians.
As a videographer Mr. Jiedueh takes very good photos that capture the moment. Above is a photograph taken during DATI’s participation at Liberia’s 167th Independence Day Anniversary on the grounds of the Liberian Chancery in Washington, D.C. in 2015.
One reason for these negative behaviors among some Liberians is because they are ignorant of the true meaning of Liberia, the very nation they claim to be citizens of. Further, they lack self-knowledge—knowledge about themselves, their families, ethnic groups, their native tongues; and, some even take pride in telling you “I don’t know how to speak Kru” or “I don’t know how to speak Bassa”, or “I don’t know how to speak Krahn,” as if saying so were a great achievement. No, it is not: it is a DAMN DISGRACE to your family, your ethnic group, and Liberia.
In addition, it is ethically unacceptable when you put down your country, fellow countrymen and women, but you happily heap praises on others who may not even be as competent or as great as your fellow Liberians you degrade or disrespect internationally and locally. To be specific, some negative minded Liberians delight in seeing their fellow citizens fail, and they would go an extra mile to sabotage your efforts than to contribute financially, morally, or material wise for the success of your programs. Because of the “crab mentality”, some Liberians tend to single you out or target you based on ethnic biases or hatred, and they couldn’t care less if your project was designed to implement a worthy cause that is people-centered, even if they have the hand to help.
Also, a lot of these self-hatred and outright dislike and jealousy of others stem from the denigration of Liberia’s rich and diversified cultural heritage by the powers-that-be in Liberia. Most of them are not independent minded due to limited knowledge about themselves, their history, and the country and people they rule. As a result, they are stooges or slaves of western cartels and mentalities, even though politically, Liberia as a nation was never colonized by any western powers, as were Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast. The only exception would be Ethiopia, even though at some point, the Italians besieged that sovereign African nation for a short period of time before the Italians were evicted.
A Photo of DATI’s Children’s Peace Theatre during the Independence Day celebration at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo by “BlackBaby” Jiedueh.
Guy Melvin Smith
Back Roll: Kathy Lokko, Eric Goll, Joshua Howard, Christopher Diggs, Herbert Elliott, Guy Melvin Smith, Claude Langley, Maude Major, Henrique Scott, Sondia Tubman, Joseph Kappia, Comfort Ennis, Festus Russell; Front Roll: Bill N. Ross, III., Joseph Gibson, Dr. Joe Gbaba, Evelyn Broderick-Weeks, Edwin Gibson.
The contributions of “BlackBaby” Jiedueh towards the promotion of Liberian arts and culture are commendable through his role as member of the Board of Directors of DATI, and as videographer and Chief Artist. Also, over the period of forty-one years, Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) has had two other very talented Liberian artists. The first was the late Guy Melvin Smith. He did all the background sceneries for Dehkontee Artists Theatre during our days at the University of Liberia. Some of his drawings included backdrops for the original “Love for Mymah” edition that was staged during DATI’s Open House performance at the Tubman Hall Auditorium in September 1977. He also designed the backdrop for “The Chains of Apartheid” that was staged for several West African heads of states and world class diplomats accredited near Monrovia and Freetown, respectively.
Thomas N. Tweh
An illustration by Thomas N. Tweh, III. From Gbaba’s African children’s reader entitled: The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville
Another gifted Liberian artist who has an exceptional artistic talent is my younger adoptive brother named Thomas Nah Tweh, III. He designed the DATI Logo, and the back cover of my African children’s reader entitled: The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville. He drew several illustrations of an African village with the frogs and black snake as key characters in the picture. His ability to capture the authentic African village features and his creativity in vividly bringing the characters in his illustrations to light, captivated parents and children who had an opportunity to purchase and read my book. Tommy’s drawings were used as backdrop during DATI’s performance at the Bowie Center for the Performing Arts on January 9, 2016—two years ago.
DATI’s Logo illustrated by Thomas N. Tweh, III.
Illustration from Gbaba’s The Frogs and Black Snake in Frogsville by Thomas N. Tweh, III.
As an independent nation and Africa’s oldest republic, Liberia has multiple talents that can be harnessed and utilized to rebuild that war torn African nation. However, one deficiency Liberia has is that most of it leaders lack self-knowledge and the ability to appreciate what Liberia has to offer the world. Consequently, most of Liberia’s artistic talents, as well as other forms of human, mineral, and natural resources, go to waste because of lack of national consciousness, high illiteracy rate and political suppression of the Liberian masses. Further, Liberia’s present self-hatred problems can be attributed to the inability of most post war Liberians to appreciate and promote the rule of law, which is a gross hindrance to the institution of good governance.
However, once Liberians learn to appreciate their own talents and expose them to the outside world, there is no doubt that Liberians will gain their rightful place in this competitive world. Until then, we have a long and tedious national journey to travel. Nevertheless, the only way we may gain the wisdom and political will to chart our own destiny is when Liberians get to realize they are Africans and not Americans—when Liberians realize that they rank number one in age as a sovereign African nation, and consequently, that they should take their rightful place and play the trailblazer role among the comity of nations in Africa and the world. But, this cannot be achieved when we do not support one another and put Liberia first. Goodbye for now.
Published by Dehkontee Artists Theatre, Inc. (DATI) Public Relations Section