Flip-flop art seems to have become quite a phenomenon among the expat community in Liberia. After having been gifted my own, very cool, flip-flop car, I went to the store to investigate. After a bit of driving around I finally found the artist, Stanley Yaawaison. As it turns out, he has been making flip-flop art - not surprisingly out of multi-colored flip-flops that he finds washed up on the beach -for the past 15 years. Originally intended as toys for Liberian kids, his various cars, planes, helicopters and other vehicles are now primarily bought by the expat community, mostly Europeans.
Mr. Yaawaison, a very friendly and talkative man, who some claim is insane (I found no evidence of this in my own conversation with him) is originally from Lofa County. He arrived in Monrovia in February, 1984, "precisely at 11 o'clock at night", as he recalls. A few years into his stay in Monrovia, he began to make cars out of flip-flops that washed up on the beach. What started as a past-time supported him thoughout the war. Today, he continues to support his wife by selling his flip-flop art.
The artisan shop where Mr. Yaawaison works sells other, more boring and generic crafts. It is located right across from the United States Embassy - inauspicouly guraded by a tank and Jordanian UN peacekeepers, who recently had to repel stone-throwing protesters by beating them over their heads with batons. The owner of the store, Mr. Kobehas, claims to have supported Mr. Yaawaison since 1992. He takes a third of the $5 that each piece costs. Mr. Kobehas notes a marked increase in demand for this flip-flop art since the the war ended, and the international community arrived in full force. Recently, one man shipped over a hundred of the pieces back to Germany. Now, Mr. Kobehas wonders if there is a greater export potential. I suppose, you never know. In either case, it's good to know that there are intersting people and places yet to be discovered.