Independence Orator Calls for Arts, Culture Rebirth: Wants Liberia’s History Rewritten
Liberia’s 165th Independence Day orator has called for a national agenda of arts and culture. He wants the country’s history rewritten to reflect its true past as it moves toward a blossoming future.
Delivering one of the most anticipated Independence Orations in most recent times, the internationally acclaimed political pundit, Dr. Elwood Dunn proposed a “National Council for Arts and Humanities” whose objectives, among other things, will be beginning a new era of arts and culture.
The proposed council, according to Dr. Dunn must be housed in the historic Edward James Roye Building on Ashmun Street, where artistic organizations and culture –promoting establishments will be headquartered.
The proposed council will be funded by government and run almost entirely by civil society organizations, according to his vision.
He recommends that money be amassed from concessions government signed to fund artistic and cultural endeavors.
As part of the package, he wants places as the museum and other historical sites be a reminder of the past and repository of a national culture.
He also wants the Kendeja Culture Center to be extended and decentralized across the country.
Additionally, Dr. Dunn wants the Government of Liberia via the proposed council to award pieces of arts, music and literature that will depict Liberian society, history and culture. This, in his view, will inspire an era of artistic innovation as happened in Europe and America in the 19th Century.
He in nutshell, he is urging a rebirth of the Liberian arts and culture.
“What we need is a critical revaluation of our values on a big scale in high and low places,” he told the Official Independence Day Program held in the monumental Centennial Memorial Pavilion on the corner of Ashmun and Buchanan Streets.
Dr. Dunn acknowledges the achievements made by the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; nonetheless, he sees a “national moral deficit” in the absence of the strong society based on arts and culture.
Dr. Dunn thinks that that arts and culture will aid more speedily Liberia’s transformation process from 14 years of civil war to a sustainable and lasting peace and prosperity she longs for.
Dr. Dunn: “I am talking about intangible dimension—the value dimension, without which we navigate without a compass. I am talking about national value deficit, not national budget deficit, not electric power deficit. I am talking about equity, solidarity, justice, tolerance, sincerity, mutual goodwill, honesty, mutual respect, a sense of common identity and social responsibility, accountability innovation and others.”
He said the recourse of placing national emphasis on arts and culture was a matter of must as it had not only present but future implications. He said: “Without a measure of moral commitment—indeed moral investment to Liberia— we risk everything—our traditional security, our human security and the sustainability of all of the material reconstruction…”
That is why he is recommending that all Liberian, irrespective of age, tribe, profession and religion, among others, form a part of the revaluation values as in it, according to him, lies sustainable growth and development.
Dr. Dunn said the revaluation of values was important to keep Liberians who they are, especially amidst the threat of western or foreign ideologies, customs and traditions. “Consider the challenge at hand. Consider what we are experiencing and its impact on us. Have you considered the effect on us of digging into other peoples’ culture and relegating our own to the margins?” he posed a question to the applause of the audience.
But his value dimension goes beyond arts and culture. It goes as far as the Liberian economy, which he said does not start from the ugly profile of “growth without development” but as far back as in the 1860s when Liberians risked their capitals for profits.
He said the good examples of that era must be applied in present day Liberia.
However, according to him, revaluation of the Liberia values must be attained alongside the rewriting of Liberia’s history to reflect the truth of the past and promote justice, equity and unity.
He said the new Liberian history must be written without political and tribal biases as being done in the cases of Rwanda and South Africa.
“It is vital that the process of history writing be depoliticized. We cannot remain mild in the social and political sniping between the polarized versions of the Liberian history,” he said.