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Culture of Liberia


The culture of Liberia reflects this nation's diverse ethnicities and long history. Liberia is located in West Africa on the Atlantic Coast.



Liberia has its own ancient music and instruments. While Liberian music is part of wider West African music heritage, it is also distinct from its neighbors. There are several different types of drums used in traditional music.

Drums are one of the most widely used instruments in many ceremonies both official and non official, weddings, christenings, naming ceremonies, holidays, graduations, etc. Next to drums, beaded gourd rattles called Saassaa are also used in mainstream music by many Liberian singers, musicians, and ensembles across the country.

Songs are sung in both English and all indigenous languages. Other instruments similar to the xylophone include Yomo Gor. Music is a main highlight of Liberian culture not only used as entertainment but to educate society on issues ranging from culture, politics, history to human rights.

Religious music is also popular. Christian music is heavily influenced by its counterpart in United States regardless of region. Islamic nasheeds popular in many countries with Muslim communities are almost unheard of in Liberia. Instead, music for Liberian Muslims are based on Quranic citations, adhan and music related to everyday life called suku. 

Aside from religious and traditional music, rap and HiLife are widely popular especially with younger Liberians and American music aficionados. Both can be heard in discothèques, parties, clubs and on radios throughout the country. Jazz, funk, soul, rap and a new music style or Liberian rap called Hipco combining rap, R&B, traditional rhymes, and joint Liberian and American influences are part of the wider Music of Liberia.


Liberia is renowned for its detailed decorative and ornate masks, large and miniature wood carvings of realistic human faces, famous people, scenes of everyday life and accessories particularly combs, spoons and forks which are often enlarged sculptures. Sculptures are produced in both the countryside and cities.

 Liberian wood curved sculptures are heavily influenced by ancient history predating modern Liberia, folklore, proverbs, spirituality, rural life and show the artist's strong observations for grand detail and their connections to the people and objects sculpted. Liberian artists both in the country and diaspora have also gained recognition for various styles of paintings in abstract, perspective and graphic art.

Due to its strong relationship with the United States, Liberia has also produced its own American-influenced quilts. The free and former US slaves who emigrated to Liberia brought with them their sewing and quilting skills and was originally done by Americo-Liberians beginning in the 19th century. Queen Victoria invited Martha Ann Ricks, on behalf of Liberian Ambassador Edward Wilmot Blyden, to Windsor Castle on 16 July 1892.

Ricks, a former slave from Tennessee, had saved for more than fifty years, to afford the voyage from Liberia to England to personally thank the Queen for the British navy's actions against the slave trade. Ricks shook hands with the Queen and presented her with a Coffee Tree quilt, which Victoria later sent to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition for display. A mystery remains as to where the quilt is today.

The census of 1843 indicated a variety of occupations, including hatter, milliner, seamstress and tailor. Liberia hosted National Fairs in 1857 and 1858 in which prizes were awarded for various needle arts. However today, Liberians from all ethnic groups make quilts though it is not a popular as it once was when the country was adapting American customs, culture and lifestyle in mid 19th century.

 In modern times, Liberian presidents would present quilts as official government gifts, and when current Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf moved into the Executive Mansion, she reportedly had a Liberian-made quilt installed in her presidential office.


A literary tradition has existed in Liberia for over a century. Liberia had no written tradition until the 19th century. Numerous Liberian authors throughout the years have contributed to the writings of various genres.

They have written on folk art, ancient proverbs, everyday life in countryside, city life, religion and observation of their own lives. Culture, tradition, identity, society, taboo subjects, human rights, equality and diversity within Liberia, multiculturalism, Pan-Africanism, colonialism and its reverberating consequences today, post colonial African countries and future of the country have been featured in novels, books, magazines and novelettes since the 19th century.

Poetry is a prominent canon of Liberian literature. Many authors have presented their pose in all poetic styles. Often adding their own unique perspectives, writing styles and observation of the material and spiritual worlds into their books. Liberia's prominent writers also share a variety of genres that cross several decades.

In the 19th century, Edward Wilmot Blyden was the most renowned Liberian author. A diplomat, educator, statesman and writer, Blyden was considered one of the early fathers of Pan Africanism along with W. E. B. 

Du Bois and Marcus Garvy. His writings revolved around the need for Africans to develop their own identity, be culturally, spiritually and politically aware of their own potential and preside over their own self-rule and to disprove the European view of Africans as culture-less. 

These writings inspired many Liberian authors in later years and still does today. In the end, he is known in world history and on African continent as the genius behind the phrase, "Africa for Africans!" and later inspired Marcus Garvey's Back to Africa Movement. Blyden is a national hero in Liberia.

During the 20th century and currently in first decade of the 21st century, other authors have taken a less political but prominent role in Liberian literature. Several authors are renowned for their starling, detailed and deep observation of Liberian life both in the country and abroad in Diaspora in Europe or United States.

 Authors Bai T. Moore, E.G. Bailey, Roland T. Dempster, Wilton G. S. Sankawulo, have all reflected on culture, tradition, modernization and pain of exile, loneliness, lost and remembrance in fiction, and non fiction works.

Bai T. Moore's novelette Murder in the Cassava Patch, is often required reading for many Liberian high school students. Published in 1968, the novelette is based on true story of a murder that discusses the most taboo subjects in mid-20th century Liberia as the story reveals the lives of the main characters and their hometown. E.G. Bailey is a spoken word artist, theatre and radio producer.

Politician and author Wilton G. S. Sankawulo published many collections of poems and stories which later became praised anthologies on Liberian folklore and wider African literary tradition entitled, More Modern African stories. His most celebrated book is Sundown at Dawn: A Liberian Odyssey. According to the book's publisher, Dusty Spark Publishing, it is regarded as "one of the literary achievements of postwar Liberia and contemporary Africa."