“he’s inside, sleeping,” she called to the vehicle. We had settled to a stop in front of a mud home with a woman, colorful lapa held loosely at her waist, bare-chested except for a red bra. She had been bent over cooking something on the open fire in the front yard.

“that is my older brother’s wife,” my colleague smiled proudly at me; then he shouted out the window to her, “go get him!”

More than the exchange itself, I was struck by the clothes…or rather the lack of them. When the brother emerged from the house, he was shirtless. A man easily in his 60s, I am still startled by how un-sixty  bodies can look here.

Wheelbarrow bodies. Or water hauling bodies. Or washing bodies. The list goes on and on because everything here takes a strength and stamina that is enough to make my lazy body tired. Dinner is less a fast food sprint more slow food marathon.  After walking to the market and carrying food back to the house there may be slaughter and plucking involved, coal and coal pot hauling, lighting and stoking, pounding of peppers or rice, more water hauling. And that’s just dinner.

No wonder the bodies here are so disproportionately beautiful. Long limbs and supple backs, and washboard abs all housed under beautiful dark red brown skin that mirrors the polished hardwoods harvested here.

And there is no age distinction – eight-year-old girls and 63-year-old men each do their share of the work and carry their share of the load and so have their evolution of that toned and fit body of work…hard work under the almost-equator sun.

And they are on display. nude ones washing themselves at the bank of the plentiful rivers, or slapping clothes against flat rocks to get them clean; children glistening under the sun as they take their morning baths or women breastfeeding, fat babies pulled close to them. Sometimes it is men relieving themselves on any number of objects (fences, trees, signs) or nothing at all – full frontal as I pass, or old women tending to their daily chores, lapa wrapped around her waist, with her flat breasts swinging low against her stomach.

I don’t know how all the skin I’ve seen fits into the modesty – or lack thereof – here. Generally, women wear long skirts that extend well beyond their knees but men, depending on their occupation, are often shirtless – farming and hauling wheelbarrows lend little need for a covered torso. I often see lapa wrapped women walking about tending to their morning or men in only boxer shorts idling beside their homes and greeting me as I pass.

On the spectrum between burquah and bare, I’m not exactly sure where Liberia falls.

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2 Comments on body of work

  1. Linda O'Dell says:

    Prayers for the rebuilding of their homes and lives, there and all over Africa and the world! Luv u.

  2. LaDawn says:

    Love this post. Very visual.

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