Meet Won-Ldy Paye

Award Winning Children’s Book Author,
Renowned Artist and Performer

Won-Ldy in Why Spider has a big Butt,The Kennedy Center, Washington DC.

Won-Ldy in "Why Spider has a Big Butt" The Kennedy Center, Washington DC.

Won-Ldy Paye is a multi-talented artist from Tapita, in the northeastern region of Liberia, West Africa. He is a member of the Tlo Ker Mehn, the class of professional Dan entertainers who are keepers of the oral tradition. He was trained by his grandmother-Gowo to remember and retell the stories of the Dan people.

Growing up in the rice field of tropical West Africa, Won-Ldy learned drumming, instrument making, dancing, wood carving, mask making, fabric dyeing, and mural painting-the traditional arts and knowledge that nourish and entertain every Dan person. Additionally, he received a Western style education in schools and colleges for the skills he needed in the world beyond Tapita.

Won-Ldy’s places of work, play, and learning were the tropical rain forest and rice fields. His natural environment was full of imagination and creativity. Bamboo trees were used to make dolls, hats, and ropes. Masks and instruments were carved out of tree trunk. Darts and mankala were played in the sand. Toys and games were everywhere.

The market arena was also an important source of education and artistic inspiration for Won-Ldy. On a single market day, Tapita would explode with people: friends and relatives, merchants and buyers, musicians, masks dancers, magicians and fortune tellers, chiefs, storytellers, animals and children would come from far and near.

Market, Tappita, Liberia

Won-Ldy remembers market days as vibrant and magical. He had the privilege and opportunity to meet and work with his cultural icons such as Bai T Moore, and the legendary Scholar of the Dan people George W.W.Tahmehn. All these many experiences provided the foundation for Won-Ldy’s artistic vision and drive.

Won-Ldy Paye, Bai T. Moore, others, Monrovia

"A life span of a thousand years could come to life in one single market day. On this day a town would become a big orchestra and seemed to hug the sky. In my mind the arena was endless as the day met the night." Won-Ldy observes

Won-Ldy Paye Award Winning Children’s Book Author, Renowned Artist and Performer, Unofficial Ambassador of Liberian Culture

His stimulating 60 minute One Man Show-The Liberian Storyteller includes:

  • Traditional West African musical instruments
  • Stories from the rice farming region of West Africa
  • Dances featuring authentic masks and costumes
  • Themes of Respect and Community
  • Overflowing wit and charm!

Won-Ldy Paye captivates audiences of all ages. He has performed recently in KALETA: A West African Children’s Festival, as part of the Seattle and Philadelphia International Children’s Festivals, and at The Kennedy Center – Imagination Celebration, Washington DC. Won-Ldy’s presentation has been featured in the American Library Association 2007 Annual Conference and is a regular highlight of the Seattle

Won-Ldy Paye’s
Professional Accomplishments

  • Teaching Artist, The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Specializes in: Traditional Liberian music, dance, storytelling, and art. 2003-present.
  • Founder, Director, & Performer, Village Drum & Masquerade (Traditional Liberian Mask Dancers), 1985-present
  • Performing Artist, The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Specializes in: Liberian Storytelling, the use of traditional Liberian musical instruments, singing, and audience participation. 2003 – present.

Won-Ldy Paye’s Literary works: 

"Why Leapard Has Spots"

  • The Talking Vegetable, © 2006
    By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
    Henry Holt and Company, 2006, ISBN 0-8050-7742-1
  • Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile: A Story from Liberia
    By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
    Henry Holt and Company, 2003, ISBN:0-8050-7047-8
  • Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia
    By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Julie Paschkis (Illustrator)
    Henry Holt and Company, 2002 ISBN: 0-8050-6570-9
  • Why Leopard Has Spots: Dan Stories From Liberia
    By Won-Ldy Paye, Margaret H. Lippert, Ashley Bryan (Illustrator)
    Fulcrum Publishing, 1998, ISBN: 1-55591-991-X

Won-Ldy’s Literary works have appeared in the following publications:

  • Reading Mastery Signature Edition Program
    SRA/McGraw-Hill, 2008 (upcoming text book)
  • Ten Traditional Tellers
    By Margaret Read MacDonald
    University of Illinois Press, 2006
  • Reading Mastery Plus
    SRA/McGraw-Hill, 2002
  • Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About
    By Margaret Read MacDonald
    Linnet Books, 1999
  • Teacher’s Read Aloud Anthology (Volume I)
    Margaret H. Lippert, Anthologist
    MacMillan/McGraw-Hill, 1993
  • Teacher’s Read Aloud Anthology (Volume IV)
    Margaret H. Lippert, Anthologist
    MacMillan/McGraw-Hill, 1993
  • Artist in Residence, Washington State ArtsCommission, Seattle Arts Commission, Anchorage School District, and Montana Art Council. 1988-2001
  • Director of “Why Leopard Has Spots” Performed by Book-It All Over. Produced by Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle Washington. 2002 & 2003
  • Artist, Advisor, & Restorer for the Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke a Back Exhibition at Seattle Art Museum. 2002
  • Liberian (African) Dance Instructor, University of Washington Experimental College, 1986-2002
  • Collector and Restorer of Liberian cultural artifacts.
  • Creator and Leader of Smell No Taste and Zigele, African Ethno-Pop dance bands. Also performed with JeKaJo and the legendary Seattle African Roots Band. 1987 – 2003
  • Host, “The Best Ambiance” African Music & Issues radio show at the University of Washington, Seattle, 1994-1999
  • Executive Board Member of the National Cultural Union, Bureau of Culture and Tourism Liberia. 1982-1985
  • Writer & Director of health education radio plays for UNICEF & CARE in Liberia, 1981-1985
  • Founder & Director, Trow Trow Artist Workshop (Liberian Cultural Troupe) 1980-1985