1up Entertainment: For individuals who may not be familiar with you, would you please give them a little background information about yourself?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: My name is Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr.. I am a Liberian Citizen living in the USA—I come from the Mah ethnic group of Nimba County, Liberia. I am also a former lecturer in Religion, African, African-American studies and Coordinator of Chaplaincy at Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. I taught World Religion at California State University at Fullerton, and I am a professor emeritus of Cuttington University College, Liberia, and Jackson State University Jackson, Mississippi. A former President and Dean, Gbarnga School of Theology, Liberia who also taught Middle Eastern Religions, African Traditional Religions and Philosophy, The Mission of the Church and Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia for a number of years. I authored: Impact of the African Tradition on African Christianity; Justice, Justice: A Cry of My People; Liberia Facing Mount Nimba, A Documentary History of the United Nimba Citizens’ Council (UNICCO); À KEE Zi: Constitutions and By-Laws of UNICCO and other books.
1up Entertainment: What inspired you to create a literary work in reference to the Mãh Language, and why did you decide to name it, “Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì?”
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: I was inspired by the fact that no one has written a Mah primer for our people and if I do not do it now, no one may ever attempt at it in the near or distance future. You asked why was it necessary for me to write a Mah language book: Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì. My response is, it is a good thing for our children to know the language we grew up speaking so that they too will better appreciate our heritage and our culture. A people’s culture, tradition, humanity, identity, and self-hood are all embedded in their language. One’s language defines one’s reality. We, and our children may not necessarily share the same realities and the same perspectives or world view, but by learning our language, they will learn, know, appreciate and understand why we do things as we do. They will understand and appreciate us better. Our language will open a small window of opportunity for them to catch a glimpse of our philosophy of life and our conception of the world in which we lived. Others too, will learn more about who we are if and when they study our language. The argument that learning an African language is not practical because one is not living in Africa is absurd. We learned European languages such as French, German, Russian and even a few of us who did Theology up to graduate and post graduate levels were obliged to study Greek, Hebrew and Latin. Some of us will never live in Germany or Russia or France, but learning another language, whether Asian, African or European, broadens one’s horizon and helps one to appreciate other cultures, including one’s own. The name of the book is “Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì”, which means learning to speak the Mah Language. I chose this name because it is the most appropriate title for the work. We want to encourage our readers to learn to speak the language.
1up Entertainment: Is “Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì” mainly for Liberian’s living in America, or can it be utilized in Liberia as well?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: The work is first and foremost intended for Mah children who do not know how to speak the Mah language. However, we are hopeful that people everywhere who are interested in learning at least one African language can see the need of using our primer to learn an African language. We encourage people living in the United States of America as well as people living in Liberia to learn the language.
1up Entertainment: Do you think “Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì” can be useful in institutional academia or is it more formatted for personal and home based education?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: The book does have an international appeal. It was not intended to be used only parochially in Liberia, but also internationally.
1up Entertainment: What difficulties or challenges arose while working on this project, and how were you able to deal with them?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: This work was difficult to put together because the Mah language is not a monolithic language. In fact, Mah Wé is not a dialect, it is a language. However, it does have several dialects and idiomatic expressions in the many places where the language is spoken. We have upper Nimba, middle Nimba, lower Nimba and Guinea Mah Mia and their traditions. We all do not speak the same exact Mãh Wé. There are variations of idiomatic expressions. What I have written here may not be acceptable to all because it does not express the genres of the three or more “Mah traditions or strands” of both countries; Liberia and Guinea. In fact, All the Mah people in Liberia may not agree on the same expressions let alone asking the Mah people of both countries to agree on some phrases that may not be the same for all groups. The language is a tonal language, one word may have 3 to 5 different pronunciations, different spelling and mean 3 to 5 different things. An example is the word for moon, Minŋɛn. (p. 95) That word can mean snake, spoon, moon, female menstrual period, or the tsetse fly. It all depends on where the diacritical marks are. One other difficulty is that everyone may not agree on how a word should be spelled. Example: I may spell the name of the language Mah and others may write Maan or Maah. There are no standardized spellings for most of our words. As we advance the project, and see greater demands for the work, we will try hard to accommodate others and make the work inclusive of our diversity. This is only an attempt. Future editions including Primers 2 & 3 will be guided and directed by an expert like Nya David Gami Zuoaglay, the Mah Literacy Expert & Director of Ganta Mission Literacy Program.
1up Entertainment: I’ve noticed that you have made several attempts to educate individuals on issues dealing with tribalism, dialects, and misuse of language and names. Please brief the readers on some of these issues and explain why they are so important to you.
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: It is exceedingly crucial that my people know the importance of the impact of etymology that deal with the names by which we are called and the names that we call ourselves. Some of the words we use that relate to who we are have changed their meanings and have become words with unacceptable connotations. Other words we call ourselves were assigned to us by outsiders. For example, the Dan people refer to themselves as Dan speaking people, but others have given them a name—Gio people. Dan people are not Gio people, they are Dan speaking people. Likewise the Mah people call themselves Mah people, but outsiders refer to them as Mano People. Mah people do and should not call themselves Mano people. They have always been called Mah people and that is the name they should be called, Mah people. These are misnomers. Outsiders should not define who we are and what we should be called. We have the God given right to define who we are. The other concern is the word “tribe”. The word tribe initially meant a group of people who live together in a given territory with common history, tradition, culture, language and lifestyle. But now, westerner view “tribe” as people living together who are illiterate, uncultured, uncivilized, uncouth, and having no religion, and no ethics. For us to keep ourselves as belonging to this tribe and that tribe is absurd. It is preferred to say, I am from the Dan ethnic group or I am from the Mah ethnic group. It is inappropriate to say, I am from the Gio tribe or I am from the Mano tribe. Those are names Nimba people or any other person or persons of Liberia should not be using to refer to Dan and Mah people. People who use these unacceptable words are either unaware of are misinformed.
1up Entertainment: Do you have any interest in traveling the country and lecturing on issues concerning current and past literary works? If so, which topics/or topic, from previous literary works would you feel most comfortable lecturing about today?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: I will love to travel around the country to give lectures in the field of African Religion, African culture and African Religion, and Philosophy and Christianity.
1up Entertainment: There has been recent talk about you starting a new publishing company called “Kitten Press”. Why did you decide to scrap the name “Struggler Community Press,” and what is your vision for the new publishing company?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: In reality, this is not a new publishing house. It is still the same publishing company. The only difference is that we have changed our name from Strugglers’ Community/Third World Literature Publishing House to Kitton Press. The words “Strugglers,” and “Third World” tend to invoke for some people negative connotation. We want to keep away from anything that is negative or anything that tends to indicate negativity. The word “Kitton” is a Mah word that means “A Mountain of Books”. And since our intention is to publish many more books than we did in past years, we want to be known as a publishing house that does large volume of books.
1up Entertainment: Outside of the “Mãh Wé Mìndàn Kìì” project, are there future literary works, upcoming projects or speaking engagements you would like to inform us about?
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: I’m currently working on the sequel to “The Impact of the African Tradition on Christianity.” The title of the new book is “African Christianity and The African Church,” and it’s pretty much an inclusion of new material, which examines and explains the church growth in Africa.
1up Entertainment: Moving forward, how can people reach you to learn more about your current projects … more importantly, how can they purchase previous or new literary works or contact you if they are interested in hiring you for public speaking engagements or educational lectures?
1up Entertainment: Well, it’s been a pleasure and I wish you the best moving forward.
Dr. Nya Kwiawon Taryor, Sr: Thank you.