17 January 2014

Liberian Art in Action

Photo: Chevron
Painting by Liberian aritist Tubman Tweh.


Chevron Liberia Ltd. is exploring for energy in deep water off the coast of Liberia with international and local partners. After opening its Monrovia office in 2011, the company engaged two local artists to design murals for the interior walls. The artists, Tubman Tweh and Sam Hwisedeh, shared their unique stories along with their vibrant work in this interview:

Q&A with Mr. Tweh

Tell us a little about yourself Mr. Tweh.

I was born in Sinoe County, Judson District, in 1966. I am Sapo by tribe and speak Sapo fluently. When I was two years old, my father passed away, forcing my mother to raise me alone. We moved to Monrovia when I was ten. My uncle, William Sayde, who now lives in the U.S., saw that my mother was raising me alone with no father and decided to help me. He enrolled me in Newport Junior High School, and I started sketching. I graduated from night school because money was tight.

When did you first discover your gift for drawing?

When I was about 15 years old, my uncle took me to the Ministry of Information, where they were conducting an art session. When presidents and leaders came to visit Liberia from other countries, the Ministry of Information would do billboards and placards to welcome them. So I started at the Ministry by practicing to do billboards and sketches for them, and they started giving me jobs from there.

Q&A with Mr. Hwisedeh

What is your background Mr. Hwisedeh?

My name is Sam Hwisedeh, and I am a Liberian artist. I was born in Montserrado County in 1974, and I am the second son of nine children — six boys and three girls. When I was younger, I found myself doing my friend's assignments in art class, and once I entered high school, I did a lot of the specimen sketches for friends in biology class.

When did you first discover this gift?

I loved drawing on the ground as a child. I realized that I had a gift when I was about 14 or 15 years old. William Diggs, who was one of the best artists in Liberia, used to encourage individuals to become involved with graphic art.

I was initially self-taught, but over time, I attended a series of workshops and seminars. The first training I received was at Child Art in Paynesville, Liberia, in 2005. I later attended several workshops hosted by the Union of Liberian Artists. In 2009, there was a major workshop at the U.S. Embassy where I acquired training under Mrs. Peggy Blott, an American art professor.

With the harsh weather in Liberia, including heat and months of heavy rain, what type of paint did you use to make this outdoor artwork last?

At first I used oil paint, but then after looking at the wall, I later used acrylic paint. Oil paint would work, but the tone would not last as long in the sun and rain as acrylic paint.

What else would you like to share regarding the life of a Liberian artist?

It is usually the foreign partners that provide support to encourage our fellow Liberian artists. To sustain our cultural heritage, it is important that people both inside and out of our country become familiar with Liberian art.

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