February 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Refugees: Art: Painting: Minnesota Sun Newspapers: As a child near Monrovia, Naplah E. Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Painting: Archive of Stories: February 16, 2006: Headlines: COS - Liberia: Refugees: Art: Painting: Minnesota Sun Newspapers: As a child near Monrovia, Naplah E. Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-25-123.balt.east.verizon.net - 151.196.25.123) on Friday, February 24, 2006 - 5:00 pm: Edit Post

As a child near Monrovia, Naplah E. Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist

As a child near Monrovia, Naplah E. Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist

But, as a student in Liberia's Catholic schools, Naplah said children were not encouraged in the arts. "School was strictly academic, so it was hard to develop any other thing."

That was, until Naplah was placed in classrooms with United States Peace Corps teachers for three years. "If you had a Peace Corps teacher, you were very happy. Your friends would ask you what you did in school and you'd be popular, because in the Peace Corps [teachers'] classes, you were encouraged in the arts."

"They gave me a lot of courage," he said.


As a child near Monrovia, Naplah E. Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist

Burnsville artist shares images of his African home

by Anna Cronk - Sun Newspapers
(Created: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:45 PM CST)

Caption: Artist Naplah E. Naplah brings African traditions and their importance to life on his canvases with oil and acrylic paints. Though his work usually is based on African themes, he also mixes in European influences. (Scott Theisen/Sun Newspapers)

When Naplah Naplah is longing for his home, all he has to do is open one of his sketchbooks.

Naplah, a political refugee, came to the United States after conflict with the Liberian government in 1997. Since then, he has been trying to revive his art career that began when he was a teenager. With his first showing in the United States at the Lakeville Area Arts Center, Naplah said he is on his way.

"It was like getting a record deal," Naplah said, when he learned his exhibit was accepted at the Arts Center. "I was not sure what was going to happen next, but I was getting outside. When you're an artist, it's about people coming to see what you're doing."

Naplah, a resident of Burnsville, began drawing as a young boy near Monrovia, Liberia, copying the comic book characters his older cousin would draw.

"I would copy his work every chance I got," he said.

But, as a student in Liberia's Catholic schools, Naplah said children were not encouraged in the arts. "School was strictly academic, so it was hard to develop any other thing."

That was, until Naplah was placed in classrooms with United States Peace Corps teachers for three years. "If you had a Peace Corps teacher, you were very happy. Your friends would ask you what you did in school and you'd be popular, because in the Peace Corps [teachers'] classes, you were encouraged in the arts."

"They gave me a lot of courage," he said.

As a child, Naplah became known among the Peace Corps teachers as a talented artist. "I didn't know the importance of what I was doing, but I would see their faces light up every time they looked in my copy book [student's notebook]," Naplah said. "I was turning my copy books into comic books, with little stories that were making sense."

As he moved on to junior high and high school, Naplah was selected to teach art classes to elementary students.

But, Naplah's art was not limited to school. He would have contests with friends in his neighborhood, as well as challenges with children in other parts of the city. Someone would name a comic book character or a scene and the young artists would compete to make the best drawing the fastest.

As Naplah grew up, he and his friend began drawing black light posters for nightclubs. "We'd use black paper and fluorescent colors in the 1970s - in the psychedelic era - to make fancy posters of James Brown and Jimmy Hendrix and Bruce Lee," which he would duplicate from magazine photos.


At this point, Naplah and his friend realized they could make money doing what they loved, and he started work painting billboards. Their first two billboards were advertisements for Marinda and Pepsi sodas.

"We did the drawings and the next thing we saw was our work up in the city," Naplah said. "We told people, but they didn't believe us, because our name wasn't on it."

So, Naplah started doing work on his own, for which he would get credit. He was commissioned to do more than 10 book covers, many non-fiction accounts of the Liberian civil war. From there he began making posters, stating his opinion about the country's leaders.

"It got me into some trouble."

Naplah came to the United States on asylum, while he left his wife, Cecelia, and three then-teenaged daughters behind. His wife and youngest daughter have since come to Minnesota.

In his effort to be involved in the Twin Cities arts community, Naplah volunteered his time with a Minneapolis after-school program and pursued teaching, but without proper certification, he hasn't had much luck.

To make a living, Naplah is delivering car parts for Factory Motor Parts based in Eagan. On his regular route, he would pass the Lakeville Area Arts Center, he said. The building, to him, appeared to be a church, so he'd scope out the area, trying to find an arts center.

"One day, I decided to make a stop. Maybe someone in the church could tell me where to go," Naplah said. Unknown to him, the Arts Center is housed in a former church.

After presenting his work to the Arts Center staff, Naplah was accepted to show his paintings.

While his pieces take on many themes, he decided he'd show art that pictured where he'd developed his talent: his home in Liberia.

"It's Black History Month, so I feel the time is right," he said. "All African-Americans, I feel, have a history in common."

The 17 paintings on exhibit at the Lakeville Area Arts Center have been completed since Naplah's move to the United States, with the help of one tool.

"I made sure to do many, many, many drawings in my sketch pads of people and places in Liberia," which has given him a number of ideas for paintings. "Also, if I'm missing home, I can just go to my book."

Naplah's work can be viewed at www.rcpap.com. To contact Naplah, call 952-736-9756.

What: Naplah Naplah's painting

exhibit in recognition of Black History Month

When: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday

Where: Lakeville Area Arts Center, 20965 Holyoke Ave. in Lakeville

Information: 952-985-4640





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Story Source: Minnesota Sun Newspapers

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Liberia; Refugees; Art; Painting

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By steveobieze (208.78.63.142) on Tuesday, December 02, 2008 - 2:58 pm: Edit Post

how can i reach Naplah E. Naplah does he have a site? were is works are exibited kindiy reply


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