Everyday life in Liberia
How is life in Liberia? Of course, that depends on where you live – but certainly very different than in Germany! In the capital Monrovia things are different than in a small village in the rainforest.
There is often a lot of traffic chaos in the city. There are often traffic jams. Lots of people are on the move. There are many small shops and stalls on the roadside. The houses are built of stone. There are no skyscrapers. There are slums: neighborhoods in which the poorest live in wooden shacks. While most residents have access to clean drinking water (84 percent), this is not the case in the slum. Sanitary facilities are still in short supply throughout Monrovia.
In rural areas, only 62 percent of people have clean drinking water. You have to get it from a well. It is very difficult every day. Usually it is the women and girls who fetch the water in buckets. In the rainy season, driving a car in the hinterland is extremely difficult: the roads are not paved and then turn into mud slopes. The houses in the villages are made of clay and thatched with thatch.
Although the civil war ended in 2003, it still has an impact on everyday life. Many buildings are still destroyed, including schools. Children had to grow up without parents because they died in the war. Others have to deal with killing other people as child soldiers.
The women of Liberia
Girls and women continue to be disadvantaged in Liberia. Girls are often denied schooling. During and after the civil war, many women were raped, that is, forced to have sex against their will and with violence.
On the other hand, women are particularly present in Liberia. Not only did Ellen Johnson Sirleaf serve as the only woman in an African country from 2006 to 2018. It was also women who in 2003 saw the civil war end with protest marches and sit-in strikes. Christian and Muslim women stood side by side and fought together for peace. During their demonstrations, they always wore white T-shirts, which symbolized peace.
Led by Leymah Gbowee, they surrounded the house where President Taylor was negotiating with other war leaders to end the war. They threatened not to let her out until they made peace. So they got the war to end.
What are Poro and Sands?
Until the outbreak of the civil war, the secret societies Poro and Sande played a major role in the population, especially in northwest and central Liberia. What role they still play today is not entirely clear.
The local population used these secret societies to pass on their knowledge and culture. There is a chief, a priest and the congregation. Only men were accepted in Poro, Sande is the women’s union. Between October and May, in the dry season, people gathered in the jungle.
Through certain rituals, boys and girls are accepted into the secret society and thus into the world of adults. This is called initiation.
Eating in Liberia
What do you eat in Liberia?
The staple food in Liberia is rice. Cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, and millet are also commonly used. Other ingredients are okra pods, plantains and coconuts. The leaves of the cassava are also used and eaten like spinach. Gladly will fufu eaten in Liberia this mashed pulp is usually made from cassava. To do this, it is dried, mashed and boiled to a pulp. You then eat it with a hot sauce or soup.
Sometimes there is bushmeat
Fish or meat are often found in the popular stews. This comes from goats, cattle, chickens or even wild animals that are hunted in the rainforest. This meat is also called bushmeat. Often it is antelopes, rats, squirrels, monkeys or porcupines that end up on the plate. The proportion of bushmeat in the diet is particularly high in Liberia. Some animal species are threatened with extinction due to their hunting.
Liberian cuisine is also influenced by the United States, especially its southern cuisine. Because from there came many of the former slaves who were settled in Liberia from 1822. This is also where the baking tradition comes from. Baking is generally not very common in Africa because one usually cooks on an open fire and does not have an oven. But in Liberia people like to bake. To get more information on Liberia and Africa, check paradisdachat.
Cassava, ginger and more
Traditional recipes have been modified with local ingredients such as cassava and ginger.
They are happy to be spicy. Chili peppers are used for this. There is plenty of fruit, for example pineapples, bananas, guavas and mangoes. In addition to water, ginger beer and lemongrass tea are also popular.
Eating with the right hand
Traditionally, as is common in all of West Africa, people eat by hand. Everyone uses a large platter or bowl. Only the right hand is used, because the left hand is considered dirty.
The Liberian snapshake
There are somewhat different table manners among the Ameriko-Liberians. The table is set with upturned plates on which the glass is upside down and the napkin lies on top.
Everyone at the table greets each other by shaking hands, grabbing the other’s middle finger and flicking up and down. This is reminiscent of the custom of the slave owners to break a finger of their slaves in order to “mark” their property. In order to be able to greet each other in “Liberian”, the middle finger has to be healthy. This is also how one celebrates liberation from slavery. This snapshake is also used for greetings on the street. There are often several fist-to-fist pushers and hugs.