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Artsworld
Meet the presenter: Liberia
Mahmud Johnson on the Liberian art scene and his hope for his country's future.
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2009 08:55 GMT

My name is Mahmud Johnson and I am an 18-year-old Liberian, and the co-host of Let’s Talk About Sex, a local youth-centered radio show aimed at the prevention of HIV/Aids.

I also work part time in Liberia’s Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs and am studying economics and communications at the United Methodist University.

I have had a passion for the media from childhood and started working as a broadcaster at the age of just 13 at the United Nations radio here.

Since then I have never looked back working on another youth show The Kids and You on Truth FM here in Monrovia and I have taken part in several theatrical performances, including a Liberian film, Complex Decision in 2003.

My country, Liberia, is slowly but steadily recovering from more than two decades of civil crisis that has affected all sectors of society, killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced even more and left the nation’s basic infrastructure in shreds.

Basic services such as water, electricity and roads were damaged during the war.

Today, the nation has produced Africa’s first democratically-elected female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has started the process of transitioning Liberia from an immediate post-conflict situation to mainstream development.

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The Arts, in Liberia is a very effective unifying and therapeutic tool.

In a country of 3.5 million people, 16 ethnic groups and more than 20 political parties, Liberians differ on a wide range of issues. But the arts, especially music, is common to all.

Be it the Bassa (one of the 16 local vernaculars) rhythms of Sundaygar Dearboy; or the Hipco (Hip-hop styled music sang in Liberian colloquial) blasts of Lucky Bucky; or the reggae beats of Nasseman, Liberians from Lofa County to Maryland County dance to tunes, and sing the words, even if they do not always understand the meaning.

The canvases of Liberian print artists portray the depth of the Liberian heritage and ethos that we keep struggling to preserve after our long years of political confusion.

It is one thing that we continue clinging on to as a symbol of our once-esteemed culture, a greater portion of which evaporated along with the many treasures that Liberia lost during the dark years of war.

I say that Liberian paintings are amongst the best in the world, because they portray the greatest element of the soul - hope.

This Artsworld episode in Liberia is a showcase of beautiful Liberian artistry, despite the trauma that we have gone through. It is a reaffirmation of the progressive nature of Liberians, and a sure symbol of better things to come.


Artsworld from Liberia can be seen from Monday June 15 at the following times GMT: Monday: 0530, 1130; Tuesday: 0130, 1400, 2330; Wednesday: 1630; Thursday: 1430; Friday: 0600; Saturday: 1930; Sunday: 1030.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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