Sunday, May 26, 2013 02:13
Dunn Stresses Respect For Cultural Values...Wants E.J. Roye Building Turned To Art Center
Story by Morrison O.G. Sayon
Photo Credit: Kennedy Zobah
Liberia's 165th National Independence Day Oration, Dr. D. Elwood Dunn has stressed the need for Liberians to prioritize and respect their national culture and tradition. Serving as Independence Day Orator on Thursday at the Centennial Memorial Pavillion, Dr. Dunn said Liberians must employ the arts and humanities as vehicles for promoting genuine reconciliation and unity by undertaking several steps for national reconciliation and respecting the cultural values of the country.
Prof. Dunn said Liberians must set aside a reasonable percentage of revenue generated from iron mining and oil extraction to be placed in a locked box for arts and humanities activities. He added that government must supplement such funds with fundraising at home and abroad, especially among Liberians residing abroad.
The Liberian educator recommended that as fundraising is most effective if a self-help effort is already in place, a negotiated transfer of the E.J. Roye Building on Ashmun Street must be turned into National Arts and Humanities Council of Liberia.
“The building is already appropriately configured for such an enterprise. Spaces could be rented cheaply to artists and arts organizations that meet certain criteria, and other spaces could be rented at market value to help fund the organization,” Dr. Dunn intimated.
He also recommended that Liberians immediately appropriate the idea of a “Liberia Youth Corps” with the specific goal of bringing together young people from diverse educational, political, cultural and religious backgrounds in campaigns that inculcate a culture of service and engender a common sense of nationhood.
“Social learning programs in other societies have increased students' sense of social responsibility, compassion, tolerance, and belonging to a broader community. I have personally fond recollections of the impact of The National Student Christian Council of Liberia and the late David Howell's YMCA on my own social learning experience. Youth are critical to any country's future especially our own, given the demographic imperative. Unless we invest adequately in their future, we leave them a poisoned inheritance,” Dr. Dunn said.
Dr. Dunn who earned many degrees in several countries said investing in such intangibles may require an enabling role for government but was quick to point out that the weight of responsibility for this undertaking must fall squarely on the shoulders of civil society and must involve Liberian leaders at all societal levels, business, faith (Churches, Mosques, Groves of our African Traditional Religions), educational, professional, philanthropic adding that all must show the courage to lead.
According to him, under the auspices of the proposed National Arts and Humanities Council of Liberia, consideration must be given to implementing at least two priority projects. He said the first is to partner with government in the full restoration and expansion of the Kendeja National Culture Center adding “I say expansion because I believe that we need a national culture center in each of our 15 political subdivisions. Such centers must become venues for establishing, nurturing, showcasing, studying and celebrating our cultural heritage,” Dr. Dunn said.
The second priority project for the new Council according to the National Orator is to transform into an area of historic preservation the land and key buildings in the heart of Monrovia including starting at the corners of Broad/Buchanan and Broad/Ashmun Streets housing the current “National Museum” and the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, and continuing along both Broad and Ashmun Streets to the corners of Broad/Randall and Ashmun/Randall Streets housing the Executive Pavilion and the old Executive Mansion.
“Beyond these, and building upon traditional knowledge systems, I also recommend the establishment of an ad hoc panel of citizens to help sort out issues in our society arising from conflict of values. I have in mind such issues as sassawood or “trial by ordeal”, a modern role for traditional chiefs, conflict of international human rights values and traditional values, the modernization of the Poro and Sande institutions, traditional healing arts and modern medicine.
Commending on the issue of education, Dr. Dunn noted that Liberia's modern educational institutions must be at the heart of any engagement that seeks to appropriate the humanities and arts in building national unity. “For in its primary mission of preparing our young people “to think creatively, read critically, construct effective arguments using persuasive evidence, write clearly, remain flexible and look at issues with an open mind,” our schools and universities must also be places for the transmission of the society's core values, attitudes and mores.