S O L D
Grebo people, Liberia
High 70 cm.
Grebo mask, this one is with elongated nose set between six pairs tubular eyes, which are thought to represent ancestors.
P R O V E N A N C E:
Ex Collection M. G., Chicago, Illinois.
Grebo people (or Glebo) is a term used to refer to an ethnic group or subgroup within the larger Kru group of Africa, a language and cultural ethnicity, and to certain of its constituent elements. Within Liberia members of this group are found primarily in Maryland County and Grand Kru County in the southeastern portion of the country, but also in River Gee County and Sinoe County. The Grebo population in Côte d’Ivoire are known as the Krumen and are found in the southwestern corner of that country.
A 2001 estimate of the number of Grebo people in Liberia is approximately 387,000. There are an estimated 48,300 Grebo in Côte d’Ivoire, not counting refugees. Precise numbers are lacking, since many have been displaced by the civil war in Liberia of the late 20th and early 21st century.
n both the historic and prehistoric periods, frequent armed conflict occurred among the various groups covered by the general label Grebo.
Some inland ethnic groups have longstanding resentment against the Seaside Grebo because of their relationship with the Americo-Liberians, who established dominance because of their relationship to United States groups and trade, as well as advantages of education and technology. First, the inland groups consider the Grebo foolish to have “sold” their traditional lands to the American colonists. Given the influence of the colonial period, the inland groups believe that the Seaside Grebo have allowed their language to become replete with English borrowings, although attempts to control and restrict language have generally been unsuccessful in most regions. Thirdly, in a difference typical between groups that are more or less assimilated in relation to a new people in an area, the inland groups have expressed dismay that the Seaside Grebo abandoned traditional ways to adopt fashions of Liberian or European Americans. For their part, members of the Seaside Grebo have been reported as referring to the up-country groups as “Bush” Grebo, pagan and barbarous.
Since the late 20th century, some of these issues have inspired a pan-Grebo unification sentiment. In its extreme form, it has been part of a political movement to unite virtually all speakers of the sociolinguistic language Grebo in the counties of Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Kru. In its recent form, the movement arose as part of the emergence of “political tribes” (factions) during the civil wars of the late 20th century (First Liberian Civil War and Second Liberian Civil War). They defined themselves against the Americo-Liberian power base. In a sense, this was a continuation of the Grebo wars of the 19th century.