Celebrating the Feast of the Passover in Loving Memory of Princess Martha Gbeh-Nyennonh-Garh Gaye: An attribute of Krahn Jewish Heritage

Prince Joseph Tomoonh-Garlodeyh Gbaba, Sr., Ed. D.

Above the Playwright has a bald shave not as a fashionable expression but as a traditional Krahn sign of mourning. According to Krahn tradition children of the deceased shave their heads bald when their mother or father die and they are allowed to grow their hair back after new strands of hair appear on their heads.


Casket bearing the mortal remains of Princess Martha Gbeh-Nyennonh-Garh Gaye. The family blanket was prepared by Benetta Johnson and the casket was manufactured in Liberia by Ohoffouhe in Monrovia. Funeral arrangements were made by Princess Garh’s surrogate son, James E. Coleman, Jr. and members of the Porte and Clarke families in Liberia. Prince Joe and Princess Ariminta Gbaba extend thanks and appreciation to Mr. & Mrs. Rameses A. Porte, Jr,, Mrs. Vida NCube, Mr. & Mrs. Alonzo Porte, Betty and Mardea Vleyee, Cheyee Krah and Charles Bai, as well as Uncles Albert and Willie Ninneh, Great-Uncle Boduo, and Uncles William and Zulu Gaye and their children. Thanks also to the managements of the Stryker Funeral Home and Mr. Cisco and his staff at the Kaiser Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Brewerville. We also thank our many well wishers in the United States who sympathized with us during our ninety-day bereavement period.

What! Passover! You say Krahn and then you say Jewish! I say Joe Gbaba full of it oh!” These are some expressions that flew out of the coo-coo’s nest and mouths of some individuals when I spoke of the forthcoming Passover Feast in honor of my late mother, Princess Martha Gbeh-Nyennonh-Garh Gaye. I suppose these may be people who do not know their own history and culture. I mean individuals who depend on the thwarted interpretations that are presented to them through books written by some foreign scholars and researchers that know little about the cultures of others but parade as the authority in other people’s cultural history. In this light, it is safe to say that most people around the world are dependent upon and believe what other races say is their history rather than making an independent and patriotic judgment and effort to research their own history and culture.
Consequently, such persons lose the opportunity of self-empowerment and cultural esteem. These are inbuilt psychological mechanisms that stimulate informed decision making and self-fulfillment. As a result, those who have no cultural esteem or who lack self-knowledge can get easily swept away by the wind of change. Thus, as a result of chronic ignorance and lack of self-knowledge, most individuals in this category poke fun at people who have cultural esteem and self-knowledge and that believe in their rich cultural heritage. Sad to say, it seems to me that such a being is like a lost soul in the wilderness of time. By this I mean that such a being may appear to be alive with a mere corporeal frame but he or she apparently lacks the source of inner power and self-awareness that comes through the discovery of oneself.
Against these odds, I always dare to venture on the exploratory path of seeking self-knowledge by asking questions and finding answers to my inquiries in order to achieve self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, and self-esteem; or, what I termed as “cultural esteem” in my dissertation: The Chiandeh Afrocentric Curriculum and Textbook Experience: Exploring Children’s Responses to an Afrocentric Curriculum. You can access this document through ProQuest and/or Google the title and read more about my literary creation and invention.
The Focus of Discussion in This Text


file 2.jpg

Princess Garh was beautifully adorned in her African royal silk lace regalia with a lace head tie and gloves. The designer of the dress was a Fula tailor in Monrovia commonly known as “Michael Jackson.” Also, Dr. Gbaba requested a copy of the book written in his mother’s honor, Ah-zeo, Ma Garh, to be placed in the casket and buried with her. A pre-recorded speech of the playwright was also played during the funeral. Back in the day the Krahn people put household utensils and valuables such as gold, diamonds, and precious jewelries in the tombs of royalties so that they may live a happy royal life in the great beyond.

What to Expect in This Text
Accordingly, you will find in this text three significant words and/or expressions that drive the meaning and context of the discussion on the celebration of a Passover Feast for my mother. The terms or words are as follows: one, the word “Krahn,” two, “Passover”, and three,” Jewish heritage.” I will dwell on each expression one by one to provide information that may lead to a better understanding of what Judaism means and how it relates to our African state of being. Please note also that most of what is said in this discussion was obtained through the Krahn Mahnuanh qualitative research I conducted from 2008 to 2010. My research participants included traditional Krahn elders who were descendants of Krahn kings. I used the method of face to face interview to obtain information from those here in the United States; and, I interviewed those living in Liberia via telephone.

Two of my research participants have since passed away but they included the following Krahn elders: my father, Prince Jack Tomoonh Yeleyon Gbaba, descendant of Yarlee-Gbenh, founder of the City of Zwedru, and also a descendant of the Nien Dynasty of Krahn kings; my mother Princess Martha Gbeh-Nyennonh-Garh Gaye, a descendant of the Nien Dynasty whose Passover Feast will be celebrated on Saturday, August 13, 2011; Prince Robert Wrighyee-Zarbayh Flahn, grandson of King Barduawayh-Jayllah, the last of the Nien kings before the introduction of Western Democracy and  the extension of the Liberian Government authority in Krahnland; Prince Joseph Grearh-Nyanrue Quaye, grandson of the legendary Krahn ruler named Grearh-Gbarbo; and, the Honorable Bai M. Gbala, son of Quiyah-Gbala, a Kanneh leader and lieutenant to Garleh-Menyeah, the legendary one eye Krahn warrior who was designated by the legendary Koonebo soothsayer, Yanwayh-Wayh-Quayee, to kill the legendary Ivorian Krahn warrior named Zon Ninneh-Taryee.

The Definition of Krahn and Its Correlation to Judaism
The word “Krahn” derived from the beginning of creation in a land and state of being that the Krahn people refer to as Manlay. Manlay is known as Paradise or the Garden of Eden in the English language. It is said that these early Africans who lived along the Nile River valley in the Cradle of Civilization in Central East Africa struggled with their God until they decided to make a Covenant with God. By struggle, I mean the Krahns kept breaking the laws of the Lord by doing things that were unpleasing to him. As a consequence, plagues and famines fell upon them and they were even captured by their enemies and taken into captivity over seas and on dry land to other distant regions of the world. Hence, the name Krahn means those who made a Covenant with God so that God may bless them and redeem them in time of trouble.

Here, the word “Covenant” means an agreement or an accord. Also, the term “Krahn” implies the “Ark of the Covenant”, a religious Krahn Jewish relic that is placed in the center of every Krahn village or town to represent the everlasting presence of the Ark of the Covenant between God and the Krahn people. Thus, as a symbol of God’s continued presence among them, the Krahns believe that the relic or Krahn placed in the center of their towns and villages indicates that Younsuah is the center of their lives and that the Krahn itself also drives away evil forces from the village. In this light, when you hear the word “Krhan”, it means both the Ark of the Covenant, as well as the Agreement between God and the Krahn people. Below, I present a synopsis of how the Agreement started and how it has played out so far between God and the Krahn people.

Princess Ariminta Gbaba (with glasses in front roll) led a cross section of relatives, mourners, and well wishers at her mother-in-law’s funeral. Next to her is Princess Edith Wrighyee, first cousin of Princess Garh and grand daughter of Prince Wrighyee-Kpodeah. The Krahn people lauded Princess Ariminta and gave her their blessings for braving the storm to travel to Liberia to bury her mother-in-law because her husband could not travel to Liberia due to political reasons. The elders reported that they admired the respectful manner she handled the activities of the funeral and they prayed that she will be forever blessed for her love for husband and the Krahn people.

The Beginning of Krahn History
According to traditional Krahn historians, once in the ancient golden city of Manlay or what is termed Paradise or the Garden of Eden in English, there lived the Krahns and other traditional ethnic groups, such as the Krus, Grebos, Bassas, Gbis, Gborhs, and Deiweions, and Bellehs. Mainly, these various ethnic groups listed above were descendants of one blood lineage but they began to speak slightly different languages as each ethnic group expanded and traveled to different regions. However they were always neighbors since the beginning of time. Therefore, it is no historical incident that the Klao people in Liberia (Krahns, Krus, Greboes, Bassas, and Deiweions) are also neighbors and that they speak similar languages and understand one another. The only exception is the Belleh ethnic group that wandered afar from their kinsmen during the early days of the Klao migration. They ended up in Western Liberia in a region now called Barpolu County.
However, when the various ethnic groups began to migrate to other parts of Africa due to the congestion of many ethnic groups vying for a small fertile land as a result of the expansion of the Sahara Dessert, as well as the consequences of war, such as disease, famine, and other man made disasters, the Krahn people of Manlay were also very concerned about their safety and future. So, they decided to go to the high priest or Bah-Gwenyon to make burnt offerings to the Lord so that he may give them a place to call their eternal home. At that juncture, the ancient Krahn people made a Covenant with God to prevent defeat in warfare, diseases, and hardships that spread across the length and breadth of Manlay.


Prince Julian Younkpaoh Gbaba, the oldest of the Gbaba children, reading the life sketch of his grandmother during the funeral service of Princess Garh in Monrovia. He sponsored the family delegation’s trip and accompanied his mother to represent his father who could not attend his mother’s funeral in Liberia due to security and political reasons.
As a result of the Covenant, the Krahns strongly believe within themselves that they are God’s elect and they manifest this special relationship with God throughout eternity by practicing old traditional customs, such as the installment of a “Krahn” in the center of every Krahn village or town. Accordingly, it is safe to say that indeed the Krahns are part and parcel of those special people of God in world history that are referred to as Israelites or descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. From this perspective, it is also safe to assert that the Krahns may be remnants of original traditional African Jews or descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from East Africa that are oftentimes referred to in history as the “Lost tribes of Israel”. In essence, the Krahns may also be referred to as Ancient African Israelites, meaning that they are descendants of Jacob. To this effect, there are many traditional Krahn historical accounts that correlate to the history of ancient Israelites in the Holy Bible and Torah, respectively.

Correlation between the Krahns and the Jews
For an example, the story of the Israelites being chased out of Egypt by the Egyptians as they safely crossed the Red Sea while the Egyptians got drowned correlates to the traditional Krahn migration story in which the Krahns were chased by their enemies while crossing the Doo-boo-gboon as they migrated to the Promise Land (Liberia). The story is told that when the Krahns arrived at the banks of Doo-boo-gboon or what was later renamed the Cavalla River by the Portuguese, they found out that there was nowhere else to run or hide. So, the Krahn people set up an altar at the banks of Doo-boo-gboon and placed the Ark of the Covenant or what the Krahns call “Krahn” on the altar facing the direction of the rising sun. Then the Bah-Gwenyon and elders slaughtered a white sheep and made burnt offering to Younsuah and worshipped Him. The smoke of the burnt sacrifice went upward toward the sky; and suddenly, a miracle occurred.
A big cotton tree dropped from out of the clear blue sky and fell across the river from what is now the Ivorian side to the Liberian side of the river and all the Krahn people crossed safely. Nevertheless, when the enemies of the Krahn people came to the banks of the Dooboo-gboon and attempted to cross over the same fallen cotton log, it is said that a very strange creature named “Zay-Gor-dweah” arose from beneath the Doo-boo-Gboon and titled the cotton log and all the enemies of the Krahn people fell in the Cavalla River and got drowned. Thus, that was how the Krahns of Liberia landed safely in the Promise Land in the region of Liberia called Grand Gedeh.
Another interesting traditional Krahn story that correlates to past events of the Israelites as told in the Holy Bible and Torah is the story of “Gbo-see-bee.” It is known as “Stone Village” in the English language and it is an historic site located in Lower Grand Gedeh near the Doo-boo-gboon region in Tchien-zonnie. In the Holy Bible (Genesis 13:8-13) and in the Torah, the story is told of Sodom and Gomorrah in which the inhabitants were very wicked and defiant of God’s laws. Hence, God instructed Lot and his wives to leave the city but he admonished them not to turn back on their way out of Sodom and Gomorrah. Unfortunately Lot’s wives disobeyed God’s orders and turned around and subsequently they turned into statues of salt.
 Similarly, it is said that once upon a time the people of the village now known as Gboo-see-bee or “Stone Village” were immoral and defiant toward Younsuah. In this light, God sent Tortoise as his messenger to advise the Krahn people in that village to desist from their wickedness but the Krahn people were too busy having so much fun that they ignored God’s messenger and continued to carry out their wicked deeds. Again, for the second time God sent Tortoise but the villagers ridiculed God’s messenger and told him to get away for they were having a good time. Then finally for the third time God sent Tortoise to give the villagers his final warning; but the villagers got outraged and beat Tortoise and drove him out of the village!
Thus, it is said that after God had marked three strokes on the ground to represent each time the villagers failed to listen to his messenger, God turned into a gusty wind called “Zay-Vlenh” and passed through the village and all the inhabitants turned into stones. How the story got passed on to us was because two women, a woman and her daughter had gone into the nearby bushes to fetch fire wood and so they were not present in the village when Zay-vlenh miraculously passed through the village and turned every human being into stones. Hence, up to today’s date, that historic site still exists and when you go there, you will see figures of human beings made of stones. It is a very awesome site to see and it may also be proof of the existence of Paleolithic or Old Stone Age culture in Liberia.
The General World View of Jewry  
Based on the lack of written chronicles regarding the history of African Jews, there is very little information about their existence, even though there are still original African Jews in Ethiopia with whom the Krahn people may have historical links. For this reason, most people around the world tend to identify Jewry with a group of Europeans who were transplanted after World War II from Europe to Palestine in the Middle East. Westerners contend that these Europeans are indeed the legitimate descendants of Jews from Biblical days. Consequently, this conviction of Jewry has been widely circulated throughout the course of history. Hence, while Judaism may have originated from Africa before spreading to other parts of the world, the Caucasians in what is present day Israel as well as those in other parts of the world claim that Judaism is a Caucasian tradition and not an African precept or teaching. Against this background the term “Passover” has only been interpreted as meaning the time in the Holy Bible when God freed the ancient Israelites (who are supposed to be Caucasians) from slavery and led them out of Egypt by inflicting plagues on the Egyptians, the worst of which was the slaughtering of all first born of Egypt.
Who Are the Ancient Israelites?
In view of the Western assumption of Jewry, the million dollar question is: who are the ancient Israelites? Were they Black or were they Caucasian? And, how did these Caucasians become ‘Jews’ when the concept of Jewry originated from Africa? In this case, it can be argued that those apart from African Jews who claim to be Jews became Jews not by blood as are the Krahn people or Ethiopian Jews; but rather, that Caucasians became Jews through the process of adoption or through conversion from one religion to another religion. For, except those who in the beginning of time belonged to the ethnic groups that made a Covenant with God, such as the African Jews in Ethiopia and the Krahns in Liberia, all others who claim to be Jews are indeed Gentiles who converted to Judaism over the ages.
The Various Concepts of the Feast of the Passover

file 4.jpg

The beautiful casket bearing the mortal remains of Princess Martha Gbeh-Nyennonh-Garh Gaye during the funeral service at Our Lady of Lebanon Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, Monrovia. In the background is Reverend Father Lionel Xavier who administered the funeral service. Princess Garh was buried on June 4, 2011 at the Kaiser Memorial Lawn Cemetery in Brewerville, Montserrad County, Liberia.

Consequent upon the Westernization of Judaism, the concept of the Passover also took on a Western paraphernalia and has been pinned down to the Biblical or Torah translation, in which the Israelites were instructed by God to slaughter a spring lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood so that the spirit of the Lord would pass over the Israelites. In Christian tradition, the concept of Passover relates to Christ asking God in the Garden of Gethsemane to let the cup of temptation  pass over him (Luke 22:39-46). Also, Passover relates to the Last Supper that is sometimes referred to as the Passover Meal or the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Furthermore, Passover as a word can also mean “neglect,” “To discount, omit, or ignore.”

Passover As a Traditional Krahn Jewish Concept
However, for the sake of clarity, I wish to use the concept of Passover from the Krahn perspective—in terms of passing from this world to the next world or what is commonly referred to as the great beyond. Hence, Passover from this point of view speaks to how the Krahns keep in consonance with deceased ancestors and their lived world vis-à-vis the world that is beyond our human perception. In essence, Passover speaks of a transition or the concept of transcendentalism, a system of philosophy that regards the processes of reasoning as the key to knowledge of reality. It is a philosophical thought that emphasizes intuition as a means of knowing a spiritual reality and the belief that divinity pervades nature and humanity.

Thus, Passover from the African perspective somehow relates to the concept of transcendentalism. Here, I am not referring to transcendentalism as the American political and philosophical movement of the early 19the century that was led by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, and their likes. Instead, when I speak of transcendentalism from the Krahn perspective, I mean the traditional Liberian/African belief of life after death; as well as the journey of the dead from earth unto the sub-terrestrial shores where our deceased loved ones reunite with their ancestors in their respective ghostly villages and towns. Therefore, the celebration of the Passover and the concept of transcendentalism come hand in hand because the one complements the other. For this reason, the cultural and contextual relevance of celebrating the Passover as it relates to our African/Liberian cultural history and setting cannot be denied as well.
According to Krahn history the celebration of the Passover was done by preparing what the Krahns call “Gbowah”, a sacred meal that is prepared to cleanse the hearts and minds of the Krahn people so that they may be lifted into the Lord’s tabernacle in time of trouble. It is also a celebration that takes place sometimes ninety days after one’s loved one has passed, to pray for the peaceful repose of the dead as well as to wish the dead a safe journey as they travel from the world of the living to the land of the dead.
So, the concept of Passover is a very significant factor in Krahn religious belief because the Krahn people hold the belief or notion that they are God’s chosen people. For this reason, they made a Covenant with God so that He would be their Redeemer and they his people. Thus, based on this symbiotic relationship between the Krahn people and God, the Almighty has always fulfilled his side of the bargain by making sure the cup of evil and temptation passes over the Krahn people. As a result, the Passover Meal or Gbowah is prepared on special occasions when the Krahn people want to make a sacrifice to ask for God’s blessings and forgiveness and/or when they foresee the coming of mayhem and human destruction in their midst.
In this text, I focused on the definitions and meanings of three significant words or expressions: Krahn, Passover, and Jewish heritage. I defined these terms to provide clarity regarding the relevance of Judaism to African culture and history and by comparing similar concepts of Judaism as practiced in the West with similar concepts held by an African ethnic group (the Krahn people of Liberia and La Cote D’Ivoire). In this light, I explored the various concepts of the Passover to verify how it is perceived around the world in general, as well as the way Krahn people view the same concept and principles based on the Krahn context in particular. Hence, in order to achieve better understanding of the concept of Passover, I dwelt on Krahn history from the beginning of time to show that the Passover is not a new or strange concept in Africa; but rather, it stemmed from the beginning of creation when God made man and set him out to live in the wild.
As a consequence Krahn history and culture relate to Judaic principles about God and the universe. In this light, I provided the general world view of Jewry vis-à-vis the traditional Krahn perception of it. Against this background I asserted that the widely held view that Westerners are the only legitimate Jews and the only people in the world that are supposed to be ‘God’s chosen people’ is not true because the concept itself originates from Africa. Further, my assertion can be proven by the presence of Ethiopian Jews in Africa, as well as the Krahn ethnic groups of La Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia, respectively, whose name authenticate the argument that  early Africans were first to be called Krahn people or a people that made a Covenant with God.
However, it can also be reasonably argued that over the centuries different races and ethnic groups converted to Judaism and contextualized it to suit their religious, social, economic, and political needs or purposes. Hence, since Westerners also converted to Judaism through the process of adoption, then it is safe to say that they are not the original Jews by blood. They are the Gentiles spoken about in the New Testament. Therefore, to say that Caucasian Jews are the legitimate Jews is a selfish assertion to make. Also, the widely held view that the Israelites in present day Israel and in other parts of the world are the only true descendants of Jacob should be challenged because there are other ethnic groups around the world (Krahn people inclusive) that may make similar and legitimate claim of being God’s elect and descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob due to their special relationships with God. Therefore, it is befitting for the Krahn people and other African ethnic groups to celebrate the Feast of the Passover in honor of their deceased loved ones since the concept of Passover authentically originated from Africa in the beginning of time.
Note to the public: If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to ask them. Thank you for reading this message and please pass it on to other deserving persons for the expanse of universal knowledge.
                             Dr. Gbaba