“From behind the rusty bars of a cell in Monrovia’s South Beach Prison facing the Atlantic Ocean, I can
now try to piece together all the circumstances leading to the violent storm which nearly tore off the
roofs from many houses in the Dewoin country one bright Sunday morning in the year 1957” Reads the
first sentence from Murder in the Cassava Patch, a novel by one of Liberia’s favorite story tellers, Bai T.
Over the years every generation has been blessed with its own group of creative writers, who have told
the Liberian story. Whether through poems, short stories, novels, or writing for plays or movies, there
were men and women sharing their deepest thoughts and imaginations – feeding the population
different dishes of a large variety of flavors to serve every single appetite.
In 1982 a group of passionate writers under the moniker “Liberia Association of Writers” was birthed. With
the goals of promoting creative writing, and building a reading culture in Liberia. Another major goal of
this group was to groom talented young Liberians in the different fields of creative writing. It is no
surprise that some of the best Liberian masterpieces were written during this period. These were
definitely golden years for creative writing in Liberia.
Fast forward years later, the grass is far from green for creative writing in Liberia. It was a Saturday
afternoon on which a young Liberian writer was to launch his book, a short story. Thirty minutes after the
time the program was due start we were still awaiting other guests, but the sad truth was no other
guest was coming.
The program delayed, invited guests yet to show up, and majority of the seats still empty; the young
writer bowed his head in dismay with one question loaming his mind ‘is this the right path for me?”
For most Liberian writers regardless of age or sex, this is the case. A vast majority of Liberians are not
interested in works of creative writing; prose and poetry. With a high level of illiteracy, previous
generations of writers failed to create a reading culture in Liberia, and as such there is no hunger for
works of prose or poetry.
Writing associations have become shadows of their former selves, relying mostly on accomplishments of
the past. They are barely publishing new books, lest I say grooming new pens.
Publishing houses in Liberia are scanty, with most of them only interested in materials placed in the
curriculum to be used in high schools.
Printing presses however, are even scantier than the publishing houses. Their low print quality combine
with high prices are reasons enough to scare any writer away.
All these leaves me with one question, IS THERE A FUTURE FOR CREATIVE WRITING IN LIBERIA?