History, religion and ethnicity play an important role in Liberia’s cultural life. The country’s extremely heterogeneous society has produced very different forms of cultural expression. The cultural values of the Americo-Liberian minority with their strong roots in the Christian faith and the special connection to the United States of America still shape the image of official Liberia. This also includes celebrating the Liberian founding myth of the “land of the free”.
Before the outbreak of the civil war, the public appearances of mask dancers were in the foreground among the indigenous ethnic groups in the northwest, while war dances played an important role in the south and east. The traditional secret societies of the Poro (male) and Sands also belong in this context(female) who are particularly rooted in the northwest and the center of the country among the country’s indigenous people. Until the outbreak of war, these traditional societies played a central role in the initiation of boys and girls, but also in religious practices and in the context of local politics. Evidence of the importance of the leagues up to the late 20th century is the fact that the Liberian government had deliberately tried to influence these structures since the 1940’s. The last two presidents from the ranks of the Americo-Liberians, William Tubman and William Tolbert, were appointed dignitaries of the Poro. What role the Poro and Sande have played since the end of the war, And how strong a restoration of these practices took place with the return of the refugees cannot be estimated. Due to the human rights violating practice offemale genital cutting (FGM), the secret societies are criticized by human rights groups.
According to ezinereligion, the National Museum in Monrovia, which exhibits historical and ethnographic objects and documents, as well as Liberian painting from the 20th century, lost almost all of its exhibits to looting and fire during the Civil War. Today you can see exhibits that depict the civil war itself.
In 2008 a gallery, the “Art Masters Gallery”, opened in the center of Monrovia (Broadstreet). Another, the ” Art of the Heart Gallery “, was opened a year later by Leslie Lumeh, and a year later he founded the ” Liberia Visual Arts Academy “, an art school for children and young people.
For years a lot of music from neighboring countries was played in Liberia. At the moment it’s the other way around, thanks to Hipco, the relatively new sound from Liberia: US rap styles combined with the slang from the streets of Monrovia. The LIB Hipco & Funk Mix by DJ ANT offers an audio sample.
In September 2013, after a 5-week film workshop, the first film festival took place in Monrovia. The results of the workshop and short films on important social issues in Liberia such as corruption, health care and the sexual exploitation of women were shown. The film training continued and in February 2014 there was another festival. An independent Liberian film culture is slowly developing.
Apart from the Americo-Liberian culture, much of the literature has traditionally been passed down orally. The most famous writers of the 20th century were Wilton Sankawulo and Bai T. Moore, whose best-known short novel ” Murder in the Cassava Patch ” is standard literature in Liberian schools. There are a number of authors in Liberia and in the US diaspora, including Wayétu Moore, Jabbeh Wesley and Helene Cooper. The two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, have published autobiographies.
Although Liberia officially sees itself as a Christian country, there is a relatively large heterogeneity of beliefs. The information on the religious affiliations of the Liberian population varies greatly. According to the 2008 census, 85.6 percent of Liberians belong to Christian (mostly Protestant) churches, while the proportion of Muslims (especially Mandingo and Vai) is 12.2 percent. and 0.6 percent of the population belong exclusively to traditional religious communities. A clear separation between belonging to a Christian church and adherence to traditional religious practices (for example in the context of Poro or Sande) is often not possible.
Traditionally there is a relatively high religious tolerance in Liberia, Christians and Muslims live together and celebrate their festivals together. However, after the war there were repeated conflicts between Muslim Mandingos and other ethnic groups, in the course of which churches and mosques were also set on fire. Here, religion often seems to obscure the socio-economic core of the conflicts. In addition, during the war the Mandingos could clearly be assigned to one of the factions (ULIMO and LURD), which in the perception of many Liberians was interwoven with religious affiliation. On the part of the state there is religious tolerance promoted, but for three years there has been a public debate about whether or not Liberia should be declared a Christian state.