Liberia is among the smallest nations in Africa both in area and population, as it covers an area of 43,000 square miles and is home to an estimated 4.5 million people. The country was founded in 1847 as a destination for repatriated slaves from North America. The formerly enslaved people would bring with them the traditions that they had picked up in North America in the slavery period. There was also the existing culture of the indigenous population. The diversity of Liberia’s culture is a result of the different communities who lived in the country during its founding.
The Constitution of Liberia protects religious freedom for all Liberians, so the government does not interfere with religious beliefs and practices as long as they are within the confines of the law. The religious freedom provided by the Constitution also prevents the government from discriminating people due to their religious beliefs. However, religious persecution was witnessed in the country at an unprecedented scale during the long civil war when people were tortured while others were burned alive due to their religious beliefs.
The major religion with the highest number of adherents in the country is Christianity. The religion is followed by at least 83% of the country’s population. Denominations such as Roman Catholic, United Methodist, and Presbyterians have large numbers of followers in the country. Islam is another major religion in the country and is practiced by an estimated 12.2% of the total population. However, the religion has been practiced in Liberia longer than Christianity as it was introduced in the country back in the 16th Century. The Islamic religious holidays are observed in the country each year. A local variant of Sunni Islam known as Malikite Sunni has the highest number of adherents in the country.
Liberians celebrate festivals and observe holidays in remembrance of a notable individual or event in the nation’s history. The capital city annually hosts the Monrovia Children’s Day, a festival which, as its name suggests, is held for the nation’s children. Numerous activities geared towards the young generation including live performances, games, and contests take place during the festival which sees thousands of children from all over Liberia come together. An important national holiday in the country is Independence Day which is observed each year on July 26th. Liberia also observes religious holidays including Christmas, Easter, and Eid al Fitr. The country has a close relationship with the United States as it was established during the repatriation of slaves in the 19th Century. A testament of the close relationship shared between the two countries is the observation of “Thanksgiving Day in Liberia.” The observation of the holiday is provided for by law and is observed on November 4th each year.
The staple food in the country is rice which is also among the country’s primary agricultural products. Rice dishes come in different types, but the most common is the jollof rice which is also popular in Liberia’s neighboring countries. The dish was introduced in West Africa by the Jolof Empire after which it is named. Apart from rice, other ingredients involved during the preparation of jollof rice include palm oil, tomatoes, spices, peppers, and salt. Cassava is the other starch which is popular in the country and is used in the preparation of dishes enjoyed in most Liberian households.
Liberians prefer fish as their go-to source of protein since the country’s fishing industry makes fish readily available. Low-income residents consume dried tiny fish locally known as “bonnies.” Another source of protein in the country is the consumption of bushmeat. Examples of animals which are hunted for bushmeat include elephants, chimpanzees, hippos, and even leopards. However, the consumption of bushmeat exerts pressure on the existence of endangered species in the country and is, therefore, a matter of great concern to environmentalist organizations in Liberia.
Music And Dance
One of the most popular music styles in the country is highlife music which is a blend of local and western music styles. The history of highlife music in the country can be traced back to the 1950s when it emerged in Liberia. The young generation in Liberia has embraced western-style music genres, the most popular of which is hip-hop. The roots of the genre in Liberia go back to the late 1980s when the pioneering hip-hop artists emerged. The genre borrows heavily from local languages and is locally known as “Hipco.” Influential artists have used Hipco as a tool of activism to criticize government policies and moral decay in society. However, many Liberians and those residing in the country’s rural regions, in particular, enjoy traditional music.
The Liberian National Museum stores many of the country’s important literature items. Nestled in the capital city, the museum was established in 1958 by former President William Tubman. The current items on display in the museum are but remnants of the thousands of artifacts which were originally housed at the museum. An estimated 5,000 items are believed to have been stolen from the museum during the Liberian Civil War never to be found again. Only 100 large artifacts remain in the museum including the country’s first national flag which is as old as the nation itself and a table gifted by Queen Victoria which is over two and half centuries old.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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