In the Garden of Eden


“I did a lot of war paintings during the war years, but I”m not doing those paintings again. Artists reflect what is around them. I”m doing street scenes, beautiful faces, people are smiling.”

Leslie Lumeh has been a professional Liberian artist since 1993, when the country was still deep in civil crisis. Though the fighting ended in 2003, not everyone in his profession has moved on. “Some artists are still in that state… you cannot blame them. They have not moved across yet.”

Though he respects the different paces at which people process such experiences, Leslie says it is the artist”s task to document what is happening around him. And the happy faces he depicts in paintings are part of a still struggling nation. Leslie claims that Liberian government programs to reintegrate those most affected by the civil war – the youth – have largely failed. “They trained them to be carpenters, to be masons, to be plumbers …the kids are back in the street.” When given tools or equipment to use in these professions, more often than not the immediate rewards of selling them on the street overpower the long-term benefits of investing in a career. “You need to work on their minds. They have to be willing to learn.”

A big part of shaping a culture online casino of learning and passion for one”s career is recognizing the diversity of interests and the need for freedom to pursue them. “Not everybody”s going to work in government, not everybody”s going to be a doctor, not everybody”s going to be a minister… we have artists in every county in this country, in every village.” It was witnessing this latent ability in those around him that led Leslie to found the Liberia Visual Arts Academy (LivArts). “The school was started based on the demand by young Liberians… they were showing me their sketches, and they wanted me to teach them.” The Academy has been running for one year now, and pieces from some of his best students are featured in his gallery alongside his and other professional artists” work.

The Art of the Heart Studio has a bright future in Leslie”s vision. “Five years from now, I want to have this gallery and this school in one big building that will be owned by myself, where I will not be paying rent, where we can have residency for [international] artists to come teach the kids and contribute their works to the gallery. I want the gallery to go beyond Liberia, one day. Art doesn”t have boundaries.”

Find more of Leslie”s work at