March 1, 2005
In 1989, warlord Charles Taylor started a civil war in Liberia. The home of Wantue Major, a self-taught artist, was then torn to shreds by gangs.
The progress of his country was set back 100 years and the lives of Wantue and everyone he knew changed forever. "Things were very hard to come by. People were eating flowers. People were sick. People were dying, while people were getting killed at the same time," recalled Wantue.
Wantue and his friends felt the need to do something. They developed a newspaper and Wantue drew the political cartoons.
"There was a time where I had to rise to the occasion because death was all around. It was my obligation to serve the people, because the leaders didn't want to advocate the cause at the time," said Wantue.
Wantue's cartoons spoke for the people who were afraid to. His outspokenness and bravery almost had him killed several times. "All along during the war Charles Taylor was trying to kill me. This was no secret."
David Park, who worked at the U.S. Embassy, admired Wantue's work, and used it to help save his life. "When he had to leave Liberia or be killed, I helped sell some of his artwork so that he afford to leave," said Park. Wantue escaped to America.
Amidst the horrors in Liberia, Wantue painted the beauty that he still saw in his country. This helped him survive, said Sage Moon owner Morgan Perkins. "He's seen horrible things, just horrible things. But if you look at his work, you don't see the horror. You see the hope, the faith, the beauty."
It's the memory of these things that draw Wantue back to his homeland, waiting for the day that he may be able to return.
Although the exhibit ends this week, his works will still be on display and for sale at Sage Moon.