The Liberian Warrior Queen

27 Oct

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In 2011 when I started Waka Talent Agency, my first casting assignment was with MNET. Our project title was to run casting/auditions for the Nigerian soapie, Tinsel. The casting/auditions sessions were to find characters from Ghana and Kenya. As I took off with my Nigerian based crew and producer, Rogers Office, we set on finding some of Africa’s most promising talent.
Our first stop was Accra, Ghana. We spent two days auditioning men and women who wished to ignite their passion and pursue their dreams of becoming great African TV stars. On the second day of auditions, this beautiful and vibrant women came into the room, wearing an amazing bright red African inspired jump suit. She was a truly proud woman. When I looked at her audition form, I noticed that she was not Ghanaian but in fact Liberian. I had never visited Liberia but I remember one of my colleagues on Studio 53 once covered stories from there. This dynamic lady was Patrice Juah. She gave an amazing audition and I knew the and there that our paths wold cross again and I knew that I had to work with her.
We remained in contact from then and I followed her career, activism and journey and a few years back, I knew I had to sign her to Waka Talent. I will give a brief description of who she is and what she represents and you will understand why the synergy was so necessary.

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Patrice is a writer, poet, entrepreneur, broadcaster, Girls’ Education Advocate, Communications Professional, Activist, and former Miss Liberia. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, an advanced certificate in Fashion Design, and a certificate in Business & Entrepreneurship.
She is also a Mandela Washington Fellow of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)

Patrice is dedicated to changing Liberia’s image within the international community. She strives to motivate and empower young women by supporting several local non-profit organisations’ efforts in educating women on topics such as HIV/AIDs, teenage pregnancy, education, and workforce development.

She is also the Founder and Managing Director of Moie, an ethnic brand promoting Liberia’s textile industry and creative sector, while empowering rural weavers and artisans.
MOIE is an ethnic textile and fashion company that brands and promotes the local Liberian fashion industry and the traditional woven fabric “country cloth”.
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Changing Africa entails creating sustainable projects to systemise and pro-mote industries with great potential, such as the Liberian Fashion Industry. Moie is at the forefront of forging avenues in the Liberian Fashion Industry.

Her writings have featured on PBS NewsHour, African Feminist Forum, Liberian Observer, Conversations on Liberia and the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings. In 2013, she was invited by UNFPA to present her poem, “Fistula, I Have Conquered You”, written to honour the survivors of Fistula at the 1st International Day to End Obstetric Fistula.
Patrice is the Chairperson and Founder of the Miss Education Awareness Pageant, Africa’s first Pan-African education pageant, which promotes and advocates for girls’ education on the continent. She’s also the founder of “Sexy Like A Book”, an academic initiative designed to inspire young women and girls to improve their perspective on reading, literacy and education. She’s a regular contributor to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) radio show, ‘Girl Power’ that promotes self-esteem, confidence, and the importance of leadership in local communities.

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She has just published her book titled: Enchanting Voices.

Ms. Juah founded the Martha Juah Educational Foundation, named in honour of her mother, a retired primary school teacher of 47 years, to advocate for scholarships for young girls in rural Liberia.

She was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama in July 2014, for a roundtable discussion on Girls’ Education in Africa, and served as an advisory committee member for the 2015 African Creative Economy Conference, held in Yaoundé, Cameroon. During the West African Ebola outbreak, she launched the “Ebola Is Not My Identity” campaign along with other artists to combat the problem of stigmatisation. The goal of the campaign was to showcase creative works of art that reflected hope for Liberia on her path to recovery, other than the images of despair shown on the new wires at the time.

In 2015, she was featured in Amina Magazine as one of the new female faces of the African Creative Economy, and was also spotlighted by Brand Woman Africa in the same year as one of the women whose efforts are positively changing Africa one community at a time.

This young, driven and vivacious woman believes that for Africa to succeed, Africans must make education a powerful driver and the strongest instrument in the reduction of poverty, improving health, gender equality, peace and stability. She’s a member of UN Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group on Liberia and recently served as keynote speaker at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Week in Geneva, Switzerland, as a guest of the U.S government. She describes herself as a “gem of unimaginable proportions”.

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She will be in South Africa in November to promote her book: Enchanted Voices as have partnered with Xarra Book stores.
If you wish to meet with her or listen to one of her thought provoking talks on her work, please do let us know.

On the Ebola crisis, Patrice took time to write a poem on the anguish and pain that it brought. She also became determined to not let the disease define her or her country.

The Ebola Ride

By Patrice Juah

On the Ebola ride,

paranoia is the driver.

It takes you on a high

leaving your senses hanging in the wild.

Fear is its deputy,

and panic, the conductor.

You never know which way the bus will go,

but you are told that as long as you stay put, constantly wash your hands,

and limit human contact; you’re in a “safe” place, at least for a while.

You do your best, to secure your seat,

making sure your loved ones are safely on board,

but as the death news come in, you’re reminded that this isn’t a normal ride.

You get a sudden kick, a silent voice asking why you’re still here;

perhaps on a mission, or for a purpose, you think.

Then suddenly humility takes over, the only calm you’ll feel in a while,

as you give thanks for still being alive.

And this is all happening on the Ebola ride.

Still on the road, Pickups rush by with men dressed like aliens,

either carrying or going to pick up fallen victims.

And somewhere at a Containment Unit, a baby cries in horror,

as his mother takes her last breath.

As you peek through the window,

crowded streets create the illusion of a normal life,

but as alive as everything appears from the outside, fear is killing us slowly on the inside.

Sometimes we wonder who’ll get off next.

But that’s the Ebola ride: no traffic lights, no horns,

no road signs, just us against an unseen enemy.

The night brings relative calm, but we rarely sleep,

as the nightmare of what’s to come the day ahead, haunts our dreams.

If you’re a diehard patriot, you remain on the ride for the love of country.

If you’re poor, the ride is your only choice.

If your survivor is your priority, you’re left with more choices then one:

to flee for dear life, with hope of returning when normal days are back?

Well, in the midst of this chaos, no one can tell.

And on the other side, the ocean wind sets the flames in the Crematorium ablaze,

as our hearts leap, for the souls of the ones we loved so dearly.

No last goodbyes, only memories, anguish, pain and grief.

The road is too narrow, the ride long and bumpy.

When will we arrive? No one really knows.

We’re stuck on this ride, with tiny doses of hope.

And though help arrives, we’re still in doubt,

as they too are clueless about when the ride will end.

So world, we’re here,

on this hand washing, temperature taking,

friends avoiding, hugs and handshakes prohibiting,

nonstop Ebola ride.

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