By: Angeline Nuah

Monrovia-April-3-TNR:Liberian movie star Frank Artus has finalized a movie titled,” Breaking of the Bush,” focusing on ending all forms of forceful traditional practices, including early marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and sexual and gender-based violence among others that are affecting youths, mostly young women and girls in the country, mostly in rural areas in the name of promote their culture.

The movie shows how young Liberians are brought out of the Sande bush while being led by a female traditional mask dancer called Zoga, by way of showing respect to the girls, as tradition demands in Liberia ‘that girls coming out of the Sande to be celebrated.’

Currently, there are about 1,335 traditional practitioners and 721 traditional grooves in 11 of Liberia’s political sub-division that practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) according to data from the Gender Ministry.

In an exclusive interview, Mr. Artus told KMTV that his pending film is not against or in favor of the cultures and traditions of Liberia but instead, it pursues to send educative messages that will give insight into good parenting, end early marriages, and stop the forcefulness of harmful traditional practices that are among alarming issues affecting girls in Liberia.

He noted that while the movie seeks to balance traditional activities concerning human rights, its overall goal is to promote and add value to Liberia’s cultural practices.

The award-winning artist and producer said, “We are against the idea of early marriages, we are against forcefulness of going into the bush, we are not promoting it neither are we preaching any message against it.  It’s their culture and they believed what they believed but we are sending a message out there to balance it that if anyone is going into the Sande bush, it should be their will and don’t force them to get marry,” he added.

Frank Artus has described the movie as his way of promoting the culture, as he urges Liberians to stop being negative until they see the types of educative messages the movie contains.

Justifying that the film is culturally sensitive, realistic, and doesn’t violate any norms, the famous international Liberian movies producer and actor said if the film was awful to the Liberian culture, the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism, the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection and the Liberian National Police wouldn’t have supported the film.

Negative Impact of FGM

FGM and early marriages are among waving issues affecting girls and young women in society currently as the fight to end these remain alarming.

It can be recalled that in 2012, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf established a group under the banner, the National Council of Chiefs and Elders to preserve, protect and foster positive Liberian traditional institutions.

Since the establishment of the group which was tasked to help end harmful traditional practices, and despite all efforts being made by several organizations including the Ministry of Gender, the practice remains constant in the country, mainly in rural areas.

FGM is said to contain health complications including infertility, and even leads to increased HIV, and death and also causes complications during childbirth.

Gov’t’s stance on FGM

The Liberian Government says it has identified 1,335 traditional practitioners and 721 traditional grooves in 11 of the 15 counties in the country that practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Speaking at the launch of the 16 days of Activism to end violence against women and girls in Monrovia this year, former Gender Minister Piso Tarr disclosed that 300 of the 1,335 traditional practitioners received livelihood support as an alternative means to abandon FGM.

She said government and partners have also intensified training amongst traditional and religious leaders, including lawmakers to change social behavior strategies and norms across Liberia.

On October 5, 2022,   a roundtable engagement meeting on the moratorium was signed by the traditional leaders and stakeholders to suspend the practice of Sandi and Poro Societies for three years and a taskforce has been constituted. 

Child marriage is still illegally practiced in pockets of communities across Liberia according to former Gender Minister Piso Tarr. At the time, Minister Tara called for a complete halt to such methods.

The gender advocate said most parents and family members are forcing their children into the practices.

“Child mirage destroys young girls and we want to see ourselves made a community of girls who are overthinking, who have education, who can be brave and live a life free of violence and a life where they do not feel like they have to hide, they have to run away and seek protection because of the will of their parents and family members.”

Former Minister Tarr spoke during the launch of the 16- days of Activism to end violence against women and girls at the EJS Ministerial complex in Congo town, Liberia in November 2022.

Religious Community Involvement

At the same time, Church Leaders taking part in the movie clarified that their participation is a manifestation that they too promote the culture but support the fight against harmful traditional practices to help protect children adding that the Bible supports culture and as such it is not a way of going contrary to the scripture.

Madam Bendu Kezulu Brown, culture star and musical icon of Liberia and her husband, Mr. Dellano P. Brown, Assistant Pastor of the New Jerusalem Land Fountain of Life Ministry indicated that the lack of knowledge hugely contributed to the practice of harmful traditions in Liberia and with traditional leaders receiving insight on the harmful impact of traditions, they wish to put an end to the practices for the rights and safety of girls.

The two encouraged Liberians to uphold their country’s culture and see things from the right perspective.

“Some of us are Pastors and if our members see that we acting in a movie where a Zoga is being put out, they will think differently about us but they won’t understand that we are trying to send a message that will help to make society a better place for our children,” they said in one tone.

“First, we never knew the harm to these traditions but since they taught us now, we know the danger and so we are speaking against the practices especially forcing girls to go in the same bush,” Madam Kezulu said.

What are Liberians saying?

This is the first of its kind to see a Liberian movie being supported by the national government and the first of its kind to see the culture and traditions of the country being performed in public, especially through filmmaking.

Though some saw it as a disrespect to culture, but many Liberians through comments expressed excitements and echoed praises at Frank Artus for the steps taken. They believe that it will serve as a boost to the movie industry of Liberia.

It can be recalled that part of the efforts being made to curb FGM, the Traditional Council of Liberia headed by Chief Zanzan Karwor during the official launch of the Ministry of Gender, children and social protection’s Anti-Sexual Gender-based Violence Call Center, announced the suspension of FGM for three years after an agreement with traditional people to adhere to Liberia’s international partners and other Civil Society and women groupings, but since the suspension, it has been alleged that people are still practicing the act.


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