Combining a passion for performance with an acute social consciousness, Miatta Fahnbulleh is helping Liberia’s next generation move out of the shadow of war.
Miatta Fahnbulleh grew up in Liberia with aspirations to be a singer, in spite of social conventions that restricted women from performing in clubs and dance halls. She went abroad to Kenya, the U.S., and England before she returned home in the early 1980s. While continuing to perform as a vocalist, she also began advocating for women’s rights. Moreover, the civil wars that plagued her country for a decade and a half beginning in the late 1980s left in her a deep concern for young people who knew only violence. As she explains, “Singing on a stage for an hour or two is not enough; you get the applause and everybody says your wonderful and then I come back to my world and I have to step out on the street everyday.” In 2005 Fahnbulleh founded Obaa’s Girls Education Outreach (OGEO), a school that offers more than 180 scholarships to girls whom she hopes will become Liberia’s next generation of leaders. In this short film, Cultures of Resistance explores Fahnbulleh’s dual role as a singer and a socially conscious citizen, and we talk with her about her hopes for a generation that is struggling to move out of the shadow of war.