The Name “Argentina” And The Story About The Kru Fishermen

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Whenever one speaks of the traditional roles of the media, one thing that is always mentioned is that the media is also an instrument that can be used to entertain people. This can be done through stories or feature articles that sometimes bring laughter to people. This is one of the characteristic functions of the media, which is mainly geared towards reducing tension or stress.

The media is not only used for hot news such as scandals or human catastrophes. Additionally, this may come in the form of a fairytale or myth that has been passed from one generation to the other.

Today, as the FIFA World Cup ended yesterday with Argentina and Germany, for the fifth time in World cups knock-out state, I am reminded of stories that I was told many years ago about the adventures of some Kru fishermen, a group that is noted in this country for the fishery industry and fishing expenditure. This activity of the Kru fishermen was not only limited to only fishing, but also afforded them the opportunity to visit other countries and regions at which time they interacted with people there, and in some instances, left indelible marks.

Of the many adventures of the Kru fishermen, there are two of such stories that I have developed interest in over the years. The first is that the High Life music in Ghana was carried there by some Kru fishermen who went to that country, where fishing is also an important income-generating activity for some of its people, to carry on their fishing expedition.

I first heard about this during one of the BBC programs, after which I wrote an article on why we did not develop same in this country, as the Ghanaians did. The issue of the Kru fishermen carrying that type of music to Ghana was recently reiterated by one of Liberia’s music icon, Amb. David Daniels, also a member of that ethic group during a recent program at the American Embassy in Monrovia. Bravo to the Ghanaians who made use of this music.

Howbeit, my focus today is not on this issue of the High life music, but what I consider as an interesting story in view of the name of that south American country-“Argentina.” I decided this just for the entertainment of the reading public after a successful FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Whether this is true or not, the similarity in the pronunciation of the name, “Argentina” to what it has been associated in the Kru vernacular, there might be some truth in this.

As we know in this country, the issue of history is a problem. Many times there are discussions about the need to rewrite this country’s history, as many believe that it has been distorted to an extent that certain historic events have been left out. One of such is the role of Madam Suacoco of Bong County, said to be a legendary, whose activities were never mentioned in the Liberian history. I first heard about it from venerable Liberian historian, Dr. Joseph Saye Guanue, who told me that he was writing a book to mention her name and role, as nothing has been mentioned about it in Liberian history.

I reflect on the issue of history because there were things that Liberians in the past were involved in and had never been mentioned in the country’s history. A typical example is that issue of the Kru fishermen that cannot be found in any page in Liberian history. Besides this and that of Madam Suacoco, I believe that there are many more missing links in this country’s history. Hats off to the administration of the Angie Brooks Center for recently opening a center in her memory, as this would provide better education on her activities and also add a page in the history of this country, should it be re-written.

Now on the issue at bar, it is said that many years ago before the founding of this country, a group of kru fishermen were reportedly drifted by heavy wind to the area, while on their fishing expedition. It is said that while on the shore in that area as strangers and visitors on that strange land, some visitors stopped by and met those fishermen. Thinking that they were part of the land, the visitors decided to inquire from the Kru fishermen about the area.

The story said, it was then that the Kru fishermen, who then considered themselves as visitors and not inhabitants of the land, in the Kru vernacular reportedly said, “Al-gee-ti-nai“ which means, “we came to visit; this is not our land; we are only visitors and strangers.” Believing that what they had heard from the Kru fishermen to be the name of the place, as both could not understand each other because of language barriers that prevented them from effective communication, the visitors left with that conviction of the place’s name as “AL-gee-ti-nai.”

And so as the visitors who were apparently on a safari encountered others who wanted to know where these visitors had been, it was then, according to the story, the visitors repeated what they heard from the Kru people by saying, “we are from Al-gee-ti-nai.”The story claimed that it was based on that that the name became to spread as people visited that land, and referred to it by such a name, as was heard from the fishermen.

Whether or not this is a true story or a myth, one thing I know is that this piece can be viewed as a lampoon or otherwise be considered as a soothing or consoling one for some of us who are downhearted or in psychological pains for the result of the just-ended World Cup competition in Brazil.