YOU & LITERATURE TODAY: Philosophy, history and poetry made me get in touch with my reality, with my essence as a person – Edward K. Boateng, a Liberian Poet. By Munyal Markus Manunyi Email: [email protected]

Recently, We Write Liberia (WWL) represented Liberia in Sierra Leone to host a creative arts evening in the Capital’s City Council Hall. The event which was tagged Upholding the African Culture had attracted more than 500 persons including 15 schools, theatre companies, other poetry organisations and lots more.

We Write Liberia is an NGO of young Liberian creative artists which has been in existence for 4 years now, and known for its output in the aspect of Creative Arts in Liberia. Let’s hear from Edward, one of the forerunners of this organisation.

Edward, can you please introduce yourself?

I am Edward K. Boateng, known by the pen name Eduardo de Bosco. I am a Liberian poet, a pan-African thinker, and an Equalist. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Don Bosco Institute of Philosophy, Ibadan; an affiliate of the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome and the University of Ibadan, in Nigeria. I was awarded the “Cicero Award in Public Speaking and Poetry” by my university in Nigeria.

I am also an honoree of the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi Award in collaboration with Motivational Strips, and I hold the Order of Shakespeare Medal from Motivational strips.

As a member and an executive of one of the most outstanding literary groups in Liberia, I, along with our team have contributed to easing awareness and fostering love and passion for literature and arts in the country by hosting annual poetry and arts shows, and as well organizing workshops, and competitions for schools.

As a writer, my works have been featured and will be coming up soon in the most comprehensive anthology of Liberian poets from the 1800s to present; in the book titled “Breaking the Silence: An Anthology of Liberian Poetry, the 1800s to Present.” A revered work edited by Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, a world renowned African Writer.

Some of my works have as well appeared in Ngiga Review, Arts Lounge, Afritondo, Spillwords, Eboquills, Rigorous Magazine, Liberian Listener, We Write Liberia and elsewhere, all under the Pen name “Eduardo de Bosco.”

I find joy in collecting the debris of my past, of my country & the world using poetry.

As part of the Liberian writers who hosted the poetry event in Sierra Leone, can you please tell us how the event unfolded?

As I stated earlier in my introduction, our team has contributed to creating awareness and fostering love and passion for literature and arts in the country by hosting annual poetry and arts shows, and as well organizing workshops, and competitions for schools.

Liberia is Africa’s oldest independent nation, and is recorded to have provided the first lengthy novel in 1891, titled “Guanya Pau: A Story of an African Princess” written by Liberian writer and missionary Joseph Jeffrey Walters. This fact however is known by very few people.

Our mission then as a group is to promote Liberian literature to the world. To prove to the world that Liberia has a literary heritage worthy of her admiration.

So our trip in Sierra Leone, was in one way the beginning of the very big task of promoting Liberia’s literature and African arts as a whole to the world. Sierra Leone is the one giant step we have started with, many other countries shall host us soon.

Can you briefly say something about the aims and missions of WWL?

We Write Liberia was founded on the 16th of September 2018 at a program planned for a poetry writing competition. She got her name from the theme of that same program “We Write Liberia”. After that program, a team of young people gathered to discuss the idea of the founder, Androvish G. Berrian; who is a colleague and very close friend with whom I have and share similar dreams. He suggested we start the platform and I along with a few other young people bought the idea.

Our Mission Statement is : “To empower education through creative arts, with emphasis in poetry writing, through media outlets.”

Our Vision is : To relive a rewritten developed tapestry of quality education in Liberia.

and our Core Values are : Integrity, Professionalism, Dependability, Trustworthiness, MENTORING, Teamwork, Transparency, Objectivity, and Fairness.

Well, it seems you’re also well versed with African history, especially Liberian history, does your writing reflect history too? Let’s hear a little about your writing career.

The very fact that we (humans) exist, attest to the fact that we are historical beings. There can be no history without existence, and vice versa.

My senior secondary education as well as my exposure to African studies, invoked in me the love for African culture and people. It is philosophy, history and poetry that made me get in touch with my reality, with my essence as a person.

This influenced both my works of poetry, philosophy and literature as a whole. The Liberian civil war which left our nation devastated and in abject poverty, inspired my works. The black race and all the tortures she has faced through various epochs only enlightened me all the more to dig deep into my roots.

While studying in Stella Maris Polytechnic University in 2016, a renowned Liberian university; Sr. Mary Laurene Browne, OSF, introduced me to critical poetry writing. That was in my first year as a college student.

My first public piece of poetry was in 2018 regarding the alleged Liberian government container money scandal. I was truly hurt about a nation that claimed to be Africa’s pride, and still dragging in abject poverty, with no hope of development and redemption.

This reality of my country and Africa as a whole moved me to write.

Back to We Write Liberia and the poetry night hosted in Sierra Leone, would you say the programme was a success? What are the pros and cons encountered?

The program was a great success.

The people of Sierra Leone feel connected to Liberia in so many ways. They carry the same welcoming and free spirit Liberians carry.

Don Bosco Fambul, a religious congregation in the Catholic Church, working for the young people, especially the poor and abandoned, served as our hosts. Thanks to the great efforts of these great Salesian personalities Very Rev. Fr. George Crisafuli SDB, the just appointed provincial of ANN province and our CEO Androvish G. Berrian.

This was our first literary event outside Liberia and it happened to be one of the best events we have ever hosted.

We recorded a 99.9 percent success and have nothing in the negatives. We only wish to have a more elaborate program in years to come.

Curiosity killed the rat, many writers who missed this event but willing to attend the next one may be intrigued to know if there were other activities involved or it was purely a night of poetry reading. What would you say to that?

We Write Liberia is a platform of great potential and we cannot cease to tap into the potentialities of the young people.

Our events too in every way are always multidimensional. Drama, dance and music performances always find their way into the very core of our activities. We writer Liberia is more than just a group that promotes Liberian poetry, it promotes the Liberian literary heritage as a whole. The evening was filled with poetry presentations, drama of the famous Blood of the Stranger by Dele Charley, songs, dances and inputs on the theatre arts.

The program had a two days writers workshop prior to the main event, it as well constituted “writers day out” a day set aside for the group to hangout with other writers and friends, a day to have fun and explore the beautiful and natural settings of Sierra Leone (lioness mountain). There was also a party night after the evening of poetry, boat rides and as well a day with the young people at the famous Don Bosco Fambul shelter of orphans and street children. There were moments set aside for personal outings and friendly sharings… this event only foreshadows the great awakening of Liberian poetry, arts and literature. And we will serve the world with more than they have seen from Liberia.

Can you name some few renowned writers who made it to the occasion?

We didn’t invite renown writers this time. But we had in attendance some writers and diplomats from Sierra Leone.

Our next program is meant for the very big stage (a literary festival ), this event will bring to Liberia great African writers.

We were blessed with our own great promising Liberian writers who are becoming household names in Liberia. The likes of Alexandra T. Bonar, winner of the Icon season one, along with the new winner of icon season 2, Dixon N. Yiadom , and the recently published young author, Marcy Forpoh.

Do you have plans to host a similar event soon? If yes, where and when?

We Write Liberia has plans of hosting similar and even greater programs.

We are planning to host a National poetry and arts festival in Liberia. The time has not yet been decided, but we surely have that on our list of future events.

We have thought as well of extending our programs to Ghana, and perhaps Nigeria. All in the hope of promoting and exposing Liberian poetry and arts to the world.

Finally, kindly drop a warm regards to five most favourite writers or friends of your choice and a few words of encouragement for the upcoming writers

I’m sending greetings to My mentor and one of Africa’s renown women poets, Dr. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley who has mentored a good number of our young writers. I am also sending greetings to Rasaq Malik Gbolahan, Jeremy Karn, Ayouba Toure, Edwin Bestman, Janetta Konah, Alexandra Bonar, Lauretta B. Cisse and all my friends out there.

I am encouraging us young writers to unite and promote poetry, to promote our arts. To read, read, and write. Join groups, make partnerships, be a part of something good and let’s share in the dream of changing the narratives

Thank You YOU & LITERATURE TODAY for your interest in Liberian literature.

Thank you for interviewing me.

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