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Posts tagged "liberia"

#TBTAfrica: Pablo Picasso, Cubism and African Art.

Although he never set foot in Africa, Picasso drew a lot of his inspiration from West and Central African art. Although in the Western world he is portrayed as one of the fathers of cubism, it must be noted that without his exposure to traditional art works from West and Central Africa, he may never have arrived at such a point in his artistic career, leading him to become one of the most noted artists of all time in the Western world.

Picasso’s ‘African period' is said to have began from 1906 to 1909, during a time when, as a result of colonialism and French expansion into West and Central Africa, often stolen works from these regions of Africa were brought back to be displayed in museums throughout Paris. Picasso’s interest was sparked by fellow artist Henri Mastisse who showed him a mask from the Dan people of Liberia and Ivory Coast (see above).

Throughout the course of his life, the artist assembled a vast collection of statues and masks from various parts of the continent. His collection amassed over 100 different works.

Picasso’s private collection can now be found in museums in Paris such as the Louvre, Musée Quai Branly and the Musée Picasso, as well as in the private collections of members of Picasso’s family. [x]

As far as can I know, no efforts have been made to return any of these pieces of artwork to their country of origin.

Picasso also denied any evidence of African influences in his artwork. [x]

Between 1939 and 1946, Fatima Massaquoi penned one of the earliest known autobiographies by an African woman. But few outside of Liberian circles were aware of it until this week, when Palgrave McMillian published The Autobiography of an African Princess, edited by two historians and the author’s daughter.

The book follows Massaquoi, born the daughter of the King of Gallinas of Southern Sierra Leone in 1904, to Liberia, Nazi Germany and the segregated American South, where she wrote her memoirs while enrolled at Tennessee’s Fisk University.

She died in 1978, and her story could have died with her.

The Puchallas had rescued Quita from an orphanage in Liberia, brought her to America and then signed her over to a couple they barely knew. Days later, they had no idea what had become of her.

When she arrived in the United States, Quita says, she “was happy … coming to a nicer place, a safer place. It didn’t turn out that way,” she says today. “It turned into a nightmare.”

The teenager had been tossed into America’s underground market for adopted children, a loose Internet network where desperate parents seek new homes for kids they regret adopting. Like Quita, now 21, these children are often the casualties of international adoptions gone sour.

'Rescued' doesn't even seem to be a fitting term considering the absolute horrors of this story.

The stories in this investigation done by Reuters called ‘The Child Exchange' have left me incredibly angry and shaken up.

In the traditional telling of war stories, women are always in the background. Our suffering is just a sidebar to the main tale; when we’re included, it’s for "human interest." If we are African, we are even more likely to be marginalized and painted solely as pathetic—hopeless expressions, torn clothes, sagging breasts. Victims. That is the image of us that the world is used to, and the image that sells.

Leymah Gbowee, in reference to the Liberian Civil War in her memoir, Mighty Be Our Powers (via wontyoushakeapoorsinnershand)

AUGUST: Highlighting African Women

WOMEN’S MONTH ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH: Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf - Liberia, 1985.

Whilst I’m not exactly sure about the details surrounding this photo, at this point in her life Sirleaf had become an outspoken activist to then President Samuel Doe’s brutal military regime. She was also campaigning as Vice Presidential candidate at this time, in 1985 after her return from exile, in opposition to President Doe. Due to her critique of the Doe government, Sirleaf was sentenced to ten years in prison for sedition and put under house arrest. Sentenced in August of that year, she was released in September after international outcry.

Though she was removed from the presidential ticket, Sirleaf decided to run for a Senate seat in Montserrado County. The elections, widely condemned as being neither free nor fair, saw Doe and the National Democratic Party win the presidency and large majorities in both houses. Sirleaf was declared the winner of her Senate race but refused to accept the seat in protest of election fraud. Sirleaf would later be arrested in November, 1985, after a failed coup was staged by Thomas Quiwonkpa, a former chief commander of the Liberian army. Sirleaf would be released in July 1986, fleeing to the United States secretly afterwards.

This picture was taken sometime during her campaigning and/or her release from being imprisoned after Quiwonkpa’s failed coup.

Sirleaf supported Charles Taylor's rebellion against Doe at the beginning of the First Liberian Civil War in 1989, and helped to raise money for the war effort. This caused Sirleaf to later be recommended a 30-year ban from politics. She later opposed Taylor's handling of the war and campaigned against him during Liberia's 1997. Following this, Sirleaf was charged with treason and fled the country in exile to neigbhouring Ivory Coast.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf went on to become the first woman to occupy the position of head of state in an African country and was inaugurated in 2006.

In 2011, Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee.

AUGUST: Celebrating African Women

Incredibly revealing accounts and eye-opening experiences of African reporters and journalists who cover volatile situations, through investigative and undercover journalism, telling their own stories of the extreme challenges they face in their profession.

What Price the Storyis a critical documentary that highlights the oft ignored plight of the African journalist reporting within the continent. The empowerment of African journalists, and the safeguarding of their work, is an element that needs to be included in the ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric if any real progress is to be made in civil society in many African states.

All too often in the past, African reporters have not been able to pursue wrongdoing because it involves powerful figures who wield undue influence over local media - financial, corporate or political - or because it is simply too dangerous.

Investigative journalism is a perilous profession in many African nations, where intimidation, beatings, imprisonment and death threats can be an occupational hazard.

As a result they have often had to sit idly by while Africa’s story has been told by Western correspondents, “parachuted in” for the purpose, who reinforce stereotypical views about African peoples and their supposed inability to face up to and solve their own problems.

A Liberian actor has filed a $25 million lawsuit against UNICEF for alleged child abuse over his starring role aged 13 in a fundraising film as a murderous child soldier who tortures his victims.

Mike James, now 28, says he and other cast members have been “stigmatised as rebels, killers, cannibals and drug addicts” after being recruited for the 1997 film “Soldier Boy” and made to act out eating human body parts.

In a writ filed in a west African human rights court earlier this month, James says he was paid $300 by a Danish production team hired by UNICEF for the docu-drama and duped into believing it would get limited distribution when in fact it went worldwide.

The UN child protection agency’s Liberian office provided “active support and collaboration” to the Danish crew which recruited children from schools and orphanages to act in the short film, the writ says.

James’ lawyer Syrenus Cephas told AFP on Wednesday the children were assured the film was for private viewing by potential donors but copies landed across Africa and abroad, where it was shown in cinemas and video clubs as well as private homes.

"(The) plaintiff further avers that as a result of this widespread public circulation of the film, (he) and other actors of the film were easily recognised and stigmatised as rebels, killers, cannibals and drug addicts, and prostitutes on account of the roles they had played in the said film," the writ adds.

"(The) plaintiff avers that this stigmatisation was all the more devastating for him because he had not only been made to ‘kill’ his own ‘brother’ in the film, but had been persuaded by the producers to use his actual name instead of a pseudonym in the film."

The writ was filed in the Economic Community of West African States Community Court of Justice, which usually mediates in disputes between states but has jurisdiction on alleged human rights breaches.

The film is offered for $100 in VHS and $200 in the largely obsolete Betamax format on the UNICEF video catalogue website, which says it is four minutes long.

"In Liberia, thousands of children are forced to fight as soldiers in a civil war that has been raging since 1989," the summary reads.

"This docu-drama profiles 13-year-old Mike who, when driven by the militia to join the army, tries to slip away after one bloody assault.

"But boy soldiers who have escaped are often rejected by their relatives because they have ‘blood on their hands’. Until peace returns, he will have to fend for himself."

Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home in the United States, the actor said he was appalled that video copies of the film were being sold for up to $200.

"I was not given a dime of the millions that UNICEF raked in from the sales of a movie that ruined my life," he said.

UNICEF was not immediately available for comment.

South Sudanese supermodel and stunner, the incredible and iconic Alek Wek on the cover of issue No. 11 of Under the Influence Magazine for their “Africa Issue" featuring: 

Ghanaian-British designer Ozwald BoatengNigerian-American curator and art critic Okwui Enwezor, Liberian Nobel Prize winner and activist Leymah Gbowee, legendary Malian portrait photographer Malick Sidibé, South African-based photographer Roger Ballen, and more.

 The magazine can be purchased here.


Augustus Washington, Portrait of Chancy Brown, sergeant-at-arms for the Liberian senate, 1856-1860.

Source: Library of Congress

(via nocturnalphantasmagoria)

Young woman, Zleh Town, Liberia, 1968

Photo by Gbaku

[TW: rape] I asked the Congolese women; ‘give me the 5 major issues affecting Congolese women today’. Rape was number 4. Political participation was number 1. Economic empowerment was number 2. Domestic violence was number 3. And they qualified it; the rape you see is because we don’t have women in high places to effect the change that needs to be done. No.2, if we were economically empowered, we wouldn’t be in abusive relationships and will know how to handle ourselves.

But outsiders expected rape to be number 1 because that’s the global image of Congolese women. One Congolese woman asked where people got the idea that rape was their major problem. Someone answered her “if you don’t say so, the West won’t give you aid”.
Congolese women wanted to show their fellow sister how they’ve been sustaining their children and communities in midst of the violence they lived in. By the time the white people arrived, they changed their tune: ‘help, I’ve been raped. I’ve been abused’.

They’ve figured you all out. That’s the stories you white people want to hear. You travel to cry. So they will make you cry. The media never goes into any community to pick stories of how you survived and what positive things are happening. A pressman once asked me if I’ve been raped during the Liberian war and when I answered no, he passed the mike over my head. So the easiest thing for those who need media attention or aid is to talk about their personal history and say they were raped.

This is a similar situation across the globe for migrants who wanted papers after war; every time they went to the US consulate and told the truth, they were denied. When they went and told a sad story, the counselor cried and granted them their papers.

Mighty Be Our Powers with Leymah Gbowee (youtube)

Western media and charity need to portray AfricanS as helpless and meek because that is the global image of Africa they want to sustain. 

(via thisisnotafrica)

How the Africans Became Black: A Liberian-American reflects on the experiences of Africans who have moved to the United States, a growing community that accounts for 3 percent of the U.S.’s foreign-born population.

After leaving my nine-to-five job, I was led to a New York Immigration Coalition job posting. While waiting in the coalition’s lobby for an interview, a copy of a popular TIME Magazine cover caught my eye. “WE ARE AMERICANS,” the cover read. The photo on the cover featured faces of various brown and yellow immigrants, eager and hopeful, representing both the spirit of America’s revolutionary history and its inevitable future. I was remembering my own family’s immigration when I stopped to wonder:Where are the Africans?

U.S. immigration debates are overwhelmingly centered on immigrants from Latin America. Proportionately, Mexicans and central Americans far outnumber other immigrant groups in the United States. According to a Migration Policy Institute study, since 1970, “a period during which the overall U.S. immigration population increased four-fold, the Mexican and central American population increased by a factor of 20.”

In a subsequent study on black immigration, the same organization reported that black African immigrants account for 3 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population.

Like their Latin American counterparts, African immigrants keep a low profile in an effort to avoid humiliation, deportation, and loss of work. Many of them, whether accidentally or otherwise, wind up blending in with African-American culture. But however closely they may identify with black America, they, too, are immigrants.

(read more)

I have a lot of opinions concerning this article as I feel as though an entire demographic’s multitude of experiences are oversimplified and condensed into the singular and observational perspective of a Liberian-American. Aside from the fact that not all Africans are black (misleading article title), or identify as such despite being labelled so in Western societies, there’s almost no mention of the complexities of race in relation to peoples ethnic and national cultural identities, and the frictions that arise as a result of these sometimes antagonistic dual identities.

Comparing the history of the Irish and their assimilation into whiteness to an entire continent who most likely adopt African-American culture as a form of ‘protectionism’ seemed rather irrelevant and out of context.

But I do agree that,Black immigrants have a meaningful contribution to make to the immigration debate’. 

Although not technically an immigrant whilst I was living in the US, this section of the article resonated with me the most: 

In the same way we respond to someone with white skin — whether that person is a white European or a white Hispanic Latino — so America responds to people with black skin, no matter if they have been here for 20 years or 200 years. Being black in America is accompanied by a stupefying consciousness, a sudden, life-long awareness of your skin, your nose, your hair — all those things that, ironically, we are taught do not matter at all.

CURRENT AFRICAN LEADERS: Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso

Since 1987, the West African nation of Burkina Faso has had one man retain his position as president: Ziniare-born Blaise Compaoré. This is the same year in which pioneering progressing leader, and then President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara was assassinated by an armed in a coup d’état on October 15, 1987. The man responsible for the coup? Sankara’s deputy and member of the National Revolutionary Council, Blaise Compaoré.

Compaoré assumed office on the very day that Sankara was murdered and founded his own ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress. He was elected President in 1991, in an election that was boycotted by the opposition and where only 25% of the electorate voted, and re-elected in 1998, 2005 and 2010.

Compaoré has had a long-lasting relationship with former Liberian President and warlord Charles Taylor who is also said to have had a hand in the coup in which Thomas Sankara was assassinated.

AFRICAN ARTIST: Miatta Kawinzi

Miatta Kawinzi was born in 1987 in Nashville, TN to a Liberian mother and Kenyan father. Based in NY, she has recently completed fully-funded artist residencies at IAAB in Basel, Switzerland and Flux Factory in NY.

She has exhibited in the US and internationally, and her work is included in the Art-in-Embassies public collection in Monrovia, Liberia and private collections.

She has received awards from the NY Community Trust foundation and Hampshire College. She received a BA in Art & Cultural Theory from Hampshire College in 2010, and also works as a teaching artist in youth communities.