Liberia: Award-winning poet Cherbo Geeplay – Neo-colonialism is a cause for concern in places like Liberia


Thirteen years of civil conflict nearly destroyed the small West African nation of Liberia at the end of the 20th century. The period of reconstruction that followed in 2003 surprisingly resulted in an explosion of local literature, some of which is world class. A nation destroyed by war has suddenly produced world famous writers, and hope for its literature is looming on the horizon. “Usually wars or crises provide new germination, if you will, like a burning forest where new vegetation grows,” notes the Liberian poet Cherbo Geeplay. Such a phenomenon is happening in Liberia today.

In addition to internationally recognized Liberian writers such as Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Wayetu Moore and Vamba Sherif, there is the poet Cherbo Geeplay. Geeplay draws on the tradition of those who came before it, such as Roland Tombekai Dempster and Bai T. Moore, and Wesley herself – these writers particularly inspired a generation of Liberian literature. Wilton Sankawulo is also worth mentioning; her novel and her short stories are popular folk tales that have left lasting imprints in this small West African country.

Geeplay also writes short stories and plans to write a short story or novel. Over time, “all of this can be done,” he says, while freeing his “mind” and developing the characters and subjects he wants to disseminate there, to enrich the literature of his native country. If he is one of the strongest and most articulate voices in new Liberian literature, it is because he humbled himself, studied art and received mentorship from veteran authors like Althea. Romeo-Mark, editors like Stephanie Horton, and academics like Jackie Sayegh. . As a poet, Geeplay’s works are rooted in tradition, transcending the particular to reach the universal, thus becoming a serious, powerful and accessible literature.

In an interview with Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, award-winning Liberian poet and writer and associate professor of English and creative writing at Penn State University, Geeplay (who considers the author to be his “big sister” and mentor) explored the he importance of writing poetry and the influences that inspired his works, the main influence being his Grebo culture. Aware that one of his heroes and a giant of the literary world, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, wants African writers to write in their native language, Geeplay acknowledges that “neocolonialism” 1. has been a source of concern in places like Liberia, where no effort has been made to develop or teach African languages. He says: “I write only in English. But the Grebo language and tradition, like other languages, has a rich heritage with many cultural heritages. You can only be inspired by the Liberian culture. My Grebo heritage is very important, it’s an African and Liberian story and comes with that perspective. A Zulu or a Yoruba can only talk about his culture and thus enrich African literature, and that is what we are trying to do “” 2.

It is worth exploring the concept that “the cultural environment in which we all live is a linguistic construct” “3. When reading Geeplay’s poems, the intricacies of Grebo-Kru’s subtructural linguistic influences are both unique and universal. In the poem below, “ Farewell to Ellen, ” published in both Adelaide Literary Magazine and Rigorous Literary (based in New York and New Orleans), the Liberian poet writes about love, a city, a nation emerging from war and poverty that has consumed the nation as in many African countries as corruption rages among the political elite as the masses seek answers. It is this humanistic and profound reflection that he brings to his work and which has earned him praise; his work has nothing to fear brilliance, and offers the maturity that many readers seek to satisfy their literary desires. In this excerpt from “Farewell to Ellen”, the poet writes:

Life comes to a slow twig

movement; the forest breathes

with humidity, like a swelling hut

smoke like a pipe. While the stream

bridged their ledges, there is a

Dilapidated Waterside Seismic!

Enough, no more, sewage

can take! She is in my arms

listen to music

pounding the roof. Again,

calm, reading Ebony Dust,

however, with lightning

shout to be heard. The clicking sound

is like a rumble

falling rockets. The sorry

corrugated zinc holds her

Seams, the bed is dry,

but the room is a puddle.

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