Liberia - Bodyman

Liberia has suffered unparalleled pain in recent times with a devastating civil war and a deadly Ebola epidemic. This has left it as one of Africa’s most stigmatized nations with the western world often visualising a country of child soldiers and medics in HazMat suits. Thankfully, this could not be further from the truth, but the region is suffering from this reputation. Robertsport, a small fishing village three hours north of the country’s capital has felt the impact deeply as it once stood as the heart of West African tourism with spectacular scenery and passionate people.

One man that stands out from the four thousand Robertsport inhabitants goes by the name Bodyman. When we met him, he said his real name was Romeo but watching him walk between the standard slim West African allowed us to quickly understand why his nickname has lasted. Suspiciously expecting an overpowering personality to mirror his stature we were somewhat taken back when we realized we were meeting the Liberian BFG. Bodyman spoke with a soft intellectual tone and a humor that prompted memories of an early Eddie Murphy. When you’re talking with Bodyman, total fascination is typical.

As one of the few skilled carpenters, the community has come to appreciate Bodyman’s craft. Locals seeking a table or tourists seeking a trinket, his studio door is never closed to the next commission. Well, he doesn’t actually have a door as he has set up a space in one of the countless buildings abandoned since the war on a winding road with Lake Piso on one side and Bie mountain on the other. The days begin with Bodyman bringing his limited tools to this deserted space and then each wooden piece is slowly perfected with his exaggerated movements and soulful style that create a somewhat hypnotic environment for the bystanders that regularly watch him work. When we discussed what to create with Bodyman, we all agreed to highlight the potential of Liberia, so we decided to focus on one thing that has saved the lives of many young members of the community, surfing.

The flawless waves that roll along Robertsport’s coastline have played a pivotal role in the region’s transformation and has kept many from deep depression. Surfing’s popularity sprang from travelers sharing their boards as they pursued stories of untouched perfection. The sport could be the solution to Robertsport’s future prosperity. To represent this vision, we asked Bodyman to build a traditional Alaia surfboard that would be finished by Felipe Pantone.