July 4, 2017 By Jariatu S. Bangura
RIPSTA Cultural Foundation, which was established by a Reggae artist in Sierra Leone in 1996, has yesterday launched the post-Ebola bloodless diamond project and a movie in order to trade out the country’s natural resources internationally.
Chairman for the program, Alex Bangura said everyone was yearning to see the development of the country and that such initiative should be supported as it would help influence the international communities about the country’s natural resources like the diamond among others.
“We have heard of many countries that are endowed with natural resources, yet they live in poverty and the reason is either geo-political or cause of conflict. The civil conflict was because of the natural resources; therefore, this project will help achieve one of the sustainable development goals on education. The Ebola is not new anymore, neither is the diamond,” he said.
During his presentation, Chief Executive Officer of RIPSTA Cultural Foundation, Sorie Obai Kamara commonly called Obi Phrase, said the country has long been known as a blood diamond country due to the past civil war, but noted that things were now becoming better and that different levels were being taken, not only in writing but also through music “as most people now would prefer to listen to sensational music rather than reading script or other things”.
He stated that the foundation was formed to support young and upcoming musicians and promote the country’s rich culture heritage, conflict resolution, peace building, agriculture, sports and sensitization on various issues like HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, sanitation, non-violence, women and children’s rights etc.
Obi phrase noted that they have been working with France, UK and USA in selling out the country’s cultural image, adding that the project attracted a huge amount of support from all facets of the Sierra Leonean population.
In 2007, he said with funds from Prince Claus fund for culture and development, the Shain Foundation and the Ripsta culture band organised their first “Guitar Better than Gun” national campaign.
“Musical concerts were staged in Bo, Kenema, Makeni and various locations in Freetown to preach the messages of reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and tolerance. The “Guitar Better than Gun” project came as a response to the peace building needs of the country after the war. Sierra Leonean music and culture is rich and powerful as a means of transmitting messages and giving information. The project focused on non-violence and peace building,” he said.
Obi phrase concluded that his experience made the RIPSTA culture band members aware of the huge potential of music, dance and drama in promoting peace, particularly in post war Sierra Leone.
“There was a huge demand for the musical concerts to continue. The young musicians agreed to carry on the “Guitar Better than Gun” project up to 2010, dealing with various teams and emerging issues. It was decided that the group should undertake the “Save Yenga” campaign. Thus “Guitar Better than Gun-Save Yenga” campaign was born,” he said.
Chairperson for the committee on Tourism, Hon. Gladys Gbappy-Brima, commended the initiative, noting that it is a good and powerful engagement, “if we market our cultural image, we would have become a rich country but amidst challenges we are blessed with natural endowment. Therefore there is need to package it well and if we say home is home, we need not rely on others to build it for us. The diamond is our natural heritage which has not been marketed enough”.
She pledged on behalf of parliament to support the initiative together with the Ministry of Tourism to help sell the country’s heritage.