Liberian in North Olympic Peninsula libraries offers masks, tales

These Liberian masks are scary, but their stories are funny and the music is irresistible, Won-Ldy Paye promises.

Paye, whose first name is pronounced “wondey” with a silent L, left his native Liberia for the United States in 1989 amid political unrest in his homeland.

Just 24, he arrived on the East Coast of the United States and set out on a path of performing, teaching and sharing the culture of West Africa’s rain forest communities.

And Monday, Paye will visit their North American counterparts to give free performances at three Clallam County libraries.

Clallam Bay, Forks, PA

Part of the “One World, Many Stories” summer reading program, Paye’s appearances are set for 11:30 a.m. at the Clallam Bay Library, 16990 state Highway 112; 2:30 p.m. at the Forks Library, 171 S. Forks Ave.; and 6:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

Each hourlong program is free.

The libraries have Paye’s children’s books on their shelves all year.

So readers can explore those after seeing the man live in concert, weaving together Liberian stories and the masks that go with them.

“There are three different masks of the rain forest: the ones that are like people, the ones like animals and the ones like monsters,” said Paye, who lives in Hartford, Conn.

Different masks

He and his cohort, Benin native Etienne Kakpo, will present each kind, all the while spinning tales and playing djembe and djun-djun drums plus various shakers and bells.

The performance “is suitable for the entire family . . . You’ll laugh and you’ll interact,” Paye added.

At recent performances in Seattle, “we got the whole audience dancing.”

The rain forest connection is not lost on Paye, of course.

He’s heard of Sasquatch, that mythical beast that might be out there on the West End.

The tropical rain forest of Liberia, Paye said, has its own scary residents: myriad insects and sounds from a seemingly infinite number of animal species.

‘The dos and don’ts’

“Everything bites” in this place, he said.

But “growing up there, you know the dos and don’ts,” he said.

“I have never been bitten in the rain forest,” Paye added. “I have been bitten by my little brother.”

For information about Paye’s performances and other North Olympic Library System activities for children, adults and families, visit or phone the main Port Angeles Library at 360-417-8500.

To learn more about Paye, visit


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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