Balawala International (BI), a household name in the Liberian movie industry and entertainment industry, that comprises the Balawala International Cultural Dance and Traditional Communicators, is poised to hit the scene more heavily than ever before.
BI, producer of the widely viewed Malawala Balawala television series on Liberia’s then only television outlet, ELTC, with central characters Karmon Soko, Ma Garmai, Oldman Gondah, and Kekura Kamara, alias “Balawala,” has also through its numerous activities, contributed immensely towards the peace and stability that the country now enjoys, even though the group itself suffered the negative effects of the 14 years of civil brouhaha.
First, during the nationwide Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (DDRR) process, the cultural dancers and traditional communicators of BI were among the many local organizations contracted by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) that went through the different trenches to preach the messages of disarmament and the need for lasting peace as a nation.
The cultural troupe, working with the UNMIL Public Outreach Department, proved successful, as the combatants agreed to disarm and succumb to peace, and further played a significant role in the rehabilitation of war-weary Liberians during the crises at refugee camps in Guiglo and Danane in Cote d’Ivoire, and Buduburam, Ghana.
Also, the group has been instrumental in past years in creating awareness around HIV/AIDS through the spread of prevention and care messages.
Furthermore, Balawala was one of the front liners in preaching preventive messages of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) and COVID-19, as it went into various communities across Monrovia and its environs, as well as counties across Liberia, to inform locals about the deadly nature of the disease; hence, information provided by the group helped to break the barriers of denial, traditional beliefs, as well the myths surrounding the disease.
Among other things, BI has been part of different traditional communicators that have been creating awareness on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), as well as conducting civil and voters’ education to scores of Liberians, so as to enable them freely and fully exercise their civil franchise.
Counting on the past achievements, the noble cultural dance group in 2009, received the Culture Excellence award at the African Culture Alliance of North America (ACANA) festival, held in Pennsylvania in the United States of America (USA), and of recent, the “Life Time Comedy Award” from the hands of top international comedian, Giant German Gina, an iconic award by the Liberia Movie Union (LIMU).
On the trip to receive the ACANA Excellence Award, Director Kamara traveled to the US along with three artists, including Bassa King singer, Caesar Gartor, and Moses Swaray (both deceased), and Liberia International Reggae Artist, Mustapha AB Swaray.
On the heels of the many successful stories, Executive Director Kamara has announced that the group is poised to bounce back in all shapes and forms.
Kamara said in order to keep the memory alive and to keep inspiring the new group of comedians and artists, plans are underway to launch the “Balawala Reloaded”, with a sponsor already in sight, while at the same time, reactivating the cultural troop and traditional communicators.
“Looking at our achievements, I am grateful. We impacted many artists and still want to do more. We want to continue giving them the training and knowledge to motivate them to take over from us,” said Kamara.
ED Kamara, also a famous television presenter of the Liberia National Television (LNTV), then ELTV, started his acting career back in the mid-80s with the Liberia Jungle Dance Group that made headways, before staging the Balawala television series.
“Our goal now is to inspire, and through the support of Dr. Clarice Kulah, we want to bring back Malawala Balawala Reloaded. We got a new story of the new Balawala; it captures the war and post war eras. We will feature new artists. We are coming back with the new version that will capture new generation of actors, so as to enhance the promotion of our cultures and values,” he stated.
The veteran Liberian actor and television personality then called on the Government of Liberia (GoL) to support the artistic industry.