Birth of an Artist: The Writing on the Wall
Whether past or present, many artistic works (drawing, painting, crafting, weaving etc.) have often been associated with mystery. From the world famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo D’ivinci to the original Vai script of Western Liberia, these great works of art and culture inspire endless debate as to the meanings and their messages. This concept of mystery in art is not at all a thing of the past. Mysteries in general form part of traditional life and daily occurrences in places like Liberia, art (and culture) being no exception.
For J. Latty M. Zarwu, it all began with a dream and a writing on the wall. He was a 23-year old money changer trying to make his way through life when it appears his luck ran out. Tall, dark and rather lanky in his posture, the calm-looking Latty had not much sense of direction as to what he wanted to be in life as a matter of self improvement. It all changed, however, when one day he hit rock-bottom – or so it seems – and, that very night, experienced a supernatural visitation that set him on the course of what he believes to be his purpose in life.
Writing on the Wall
“It was on November 28, 2009, when I went to bed in a bad mood, because I didn’t make a sale that week lost all the investment I made in my money changing business. That night in my sleep I saw my self under a tree and a person’s finger drawing on the wall, “ART”; but I couldn’t see that person body only their reflection on the wall. It was very bright and difficult for me to see. When I asked what was on the wall, he said, “Art”.
“These were his exact words he said to me,” Latty narrated: ‘This will heal you, this will heal the world, this will make you rich.’
“I asked, How? He then began drawing on the wall. I told him, I have no idea about drawing, neither do I have knowledge about painting and there is no money in my pocket. He told me not to worry, that when I wake up, money would be available. On that bright morning of November 29, a lady I know just came up to me, saying she had a gift for me. Wrapped up in her hand was $US25, which she handed to me.
“I went back to my room and started to see the possibility of my dream come to reality. Immediately I purchased some art materials and commenced drawing. My inspiration began to flow from my Creator. (That’s how I call him.)
“The most interesting thing that happened was that, all the paintings and drawings I saw in my dream come to my head and I begin doing them. There were three in all. That same day after drawing, I sold all of them for US$250, and that is how my artistic career began. My work began to get discovered and was featured in 2010 by Liberia Travel and Life magazine on their cover page.”
Latty graduated in 2014 with an associate’s degree in journalism from the Lincoln College of Profession Studies, in Monrovia. As an artist, he made up his mind to not let his art be only about painting, but to include poetry, music and crafts. He recently produced a song called ‘Ebola Therapy’, to heal the heart of those who lost friends and loved ones during the Ebola epidemic. Some of his paintings are featured in the National Museum of Liberia and he recently released a collection of poems in a 10-page pamphlet. Latty also served at the More Than Me Academy as Art Director (2010-2011).
“Presently I run an organization called Warrior Art Liberia, which is engaged in training of young people from the ghetto to show them a better life. At least that is what I was called to do by my creator. Everybody is a messenger and a warrior but you have to look into yourself and push your mission forward.”
“I feel the sense in nature when I’m in my artistic realm,” Latty explains. “Once there, I don’t need noise. The uncertainty of what we see in our work is a very important element in art. Art is a way of sensing the world in depth and finding a way to create an impression on the viewers. Art doesn't have to be nice, however, you could return to it, at a point in time, in your mind. It will eventually create a question that you need to answer, or to express it some ways that makes you wonder about the outcome of your sensation. Our minds are constantly drawn to mystery because life itself is a mystery in so many ways. Art can convey our spirit so we can be able to remember long after it is gone from sight.”