Tuesday, February 4, 2014

mɛ̃ɛsɔ̃ɔ niinɛi

Here's a gem that emerged recently emerged from the Liberian Observer last week: a reprint of the Loma Weekly, a missionary-run newspaper from Lofa County, published in the Loma (Lorma) language by Lutheran missionaries to encourage literacy. Seemingly type-set with a specialty phonetic typewriter tape, and featuring a wonderful illustration, this particular cover story explains the newly-completed Executive Mansion, which surely bewildered non-urban Liberians even more than it astonished more cosmopolitan audiences. The description is also delightful:

Below is the translation: 
The New Mansion 
The new Executive Mansion, dedicated on Jan. 3, is truly a splendid building, unsurpassed in its kind in Africa. It has eight floors and 310 rooms. It has a few stairways, but nine  elevators.They say there is meaning to the plan of the mansion. The curve of the building suggests the embrace of welcome extended to all who seek help from the Chief Executive. The building has its back to the ocean, suggesting the strength of the decisions that are made in the executive branch.There is a pool of water all around the building. The building contains 55 offices, a laundry, a clinic, a library, a theater, a dance room, a church, several kitchens, and a sewing room. The building is air-conditioned.President Tubman says the building should be as a proverb for the citizens of the country. As it is a splendid work, so we should strive for excellence; as it is a bold and giant venture so we should attempt great things; as it represents hard work and sacrifice, so we should not fear suffering in the performing of our noble tasks.
That fantastic description, and apparent quote from President Tubman, might make its way into the Architectural Tour. It's also interesting that “mɛ̃ɛsɔ̃ɔ  niinɛi” clearly sounds like Mansion—New, suggesting that both words were borrowed from English. Not surprising the Loma had no word for “Mansion” previously.

Further details from the Observer article, including a sad detail which I've emphasized in bold:

...the Lorma Weekly was published in Wozi, Zorzor District, Lofa County on January 24, 1964 by the literacy program of the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL). The literacy program in Liberia was formally started in 1948 by the government of Liberia,   in collaboration with the Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal Churches. 
A renowned international literacy  expert named Frank Laubach was sent out to spearhead the program. He trained many Liberians in adult literacy through the churches.  Among those who did the program under him were Reverend Byron Traub and his wife Margaret, both of whom were part of the nationwide Lutheran school system.  They taught at Lutheran schools in the Meuhlenberg Mission near Millsburg and Harrisburg on the St. Paul River, at Totota and in Sanoyea, where one of their daughters,  Mae Gene Traub Best,  was born. 
The literacy program spread to Yandequelleh, near Totota and was later established in Totota Town, where the Lutheran Mission, elementary school and church were built. In Totota, the teachers worked in the Kpelle  language, and in Wozi,  they worked in the Lorma language. 
The Lorma Weekly was published in Wozi. The Wozi program was started by three Lutheran missionaries, Paul Slafford, Gerry (Gerald) Currrens and   Margaret Jim Miller, daughter of the lengendary American Lutheran missionary in Liberia, Ma Miriam Miller, mother of Margaret.  Margaret managed  with the program until  the late 1980s when she returned to the USA.
Mr. Yella Quaqua was the last supervisor in charge of the Wozi  program when, during  the Liberian civil war, the United the Liberation Movement for Democracy (ULIMO), under the command of warlord Alhaji Kromah,   attacked and burned down the Wozi Literacy Center, including the church.  Yella Quaqua was  killed during that  attack.  The Wozi  Literacy Station still lies in ruins.  The new Lutheran Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Daniel Jensen Seyenkulo, said the church does plan to rebuild Wozi, but it will have to be a long-range, five to 10-year plan.

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