Art of the Heart
Liberia, a West African state, went through years of political and social unrest that turned the lives of millions of people upside down and left behind 200,000 fatalities. The years of convoluted political puzzle and violence ended with one of the main players in the conflicts, Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, being charged by Special Court for Sierra Leone in the Hague, Netherlands (Holland), with 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.
Suffering and damage from the war always takes much more time to heal than the duration of the conflict itself. It takes an exceptional human spirit for any artist to maintain a positive will to become successful and to remain creative during, and after, the war. One of the people who proved that a positive human heart can not be destroyed by tragedy is Lessie Lumeh, a Liberian artist who had to leave Liberia during civil war but who returned with his family 8 years later in 2005, at end of the conflicts, where he opened the Monrovia’s first Art gallery he named Art of the Heart. He strongly believes that the Art has an important and positive influence on healing of the Liberian people.
Born in 1970 in Dambala, A. Leslie Lumeh is a self-taught artist who holds a diploma in architectural drafting from the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) in Kakata, Liberia. Presently Leslie is one of Liberia’s leading painters. He also works as illustrator and cartoonist for the Liberian Observer in Monrovia. Leslie discovered that his paintings were very positively received following the civil war. He started recreating scenes from the war, first in simple pencil sketches, and later in watercolors on drawing paper, then finally onto canvas. These early works attracted an unexpected number of people, not only Liberians but foreigners as well, including international journalists. Soon he was able to get commissions from private collectors as well as institutions. More of his work can be seen here and here.
This gallery spells peace. True peace… I decided to do this for the artists, not just for me, so we can have a place where we can showcase Liberian culture.Leslie Lumeh
Leslie Lumeh’s example proves to all of us that we alone play possibly the greatest role in overcoming the odds we face but also that we should always willingly acquire positive influences from others, including our mentors and friends, who can play a constructive role in molding us. Feel free to read this article in which Leslie writes about one of his friends and mentors, Aaron Fallah Brown.
Artists can change any society positively if they work collectivelyAaron Fallah Brown
As seen on the poster below, including a graphic arts exhibition in an entertaining day for the whole family seems to be a current standard in Monrovia.
- Poster announcing activities during the Bastille Day celebration in Monrovia, Liberia – © bp.blogspot.com