Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday Rotary and Business of the Future

After a very interesting stop at Duala Market where we left the NAWOL union brothers proudly wearing their T-shirts, we went into town for the weekly Rotary Club meeting. The LOEP Team were guests of Rev. Sam-Peal who has been an active member for many years. It was a lively meeting held at a very nice hotel in Mamba Point. Mamba Point is the area where the U.S. Embassy is located. It is also where the nicer hotels of the pre-war era have managed to carry on. Most are small, locally owned businesses that barely survived the war but have managed to carry on mostly because of the large ex-pat community here - there are literally thousands of international NGOs represented with staffed offices here. Mamba Point, located on a bluff at the ocean's edge, is the "tourist area" of Monrovia and the views of ocean and lagoons from each hotel is spectacular. There is a small craft market there that has some beautiful wood carvings, baskets and craft work by Liberian artisans. We spent a great afternoon there.

One of the many sad results of war is the loss of the arts and crafts tradtition among a whole generation of Liberians. Children who grew up during the 14 year war spent most of their young lives running from warring factions. Family and village life, where culture and tradition normally thrive for all of us, was badly damaged during the conflict. Liberians who were children during that period are now young adults (the age of my own children) whose childhoods were traumatized and insecure. A difficult environment for survival of humans much less arts and crafts of one's culture.

However, there are signs that the old crafts may be coming back and we were encouraged to see some cloth decorated in the old way with natural dyes (it was exactly the lovely, mellow color of African dust that is everywhere during this dry season), with old time stamped patterns in one store. (Brenda was so excited to find such cloth, she would not let go of it long enough to have it made into a gown for herself and walked around the market with it hugged close to her chest.) The art of basket making is beginning to return also, and the wood carvings are absolutely stunning. Many are real works of art. Others are charmingly rustic. The artisans in the little market area spend much of their time selling because "hustling" is what most Liberians must do to eat every day.

Normal business and commerce has a long way to go for recovery in Liberia but signs are there. Bob Johnson, a wealthy African-American businessman and founder of Black Entertainment Television, is building a major resort on the ocean front just outside of Monrovia. It is a four-star establishment and the new manager was the speaker at the Rotary luncheon we attended. There are big plans and great expectations for that new resort to be the cornerstone of a new era for Liberia's tourist industry.

As commerce returns to normal in Liberia, arts and crafts will offer great opportunity for development to those in the import and export business. The work is beautiful and the artisans are eager to sell.

1 comment:

  1. Contact Rotarian Project Support Group, to register your project so other Rotarians can help. www.projectsupportcenter.org

    See also: www.therotarianworld.blogspot.com and www.edmattsonspeaker.blogspot.com