Liberia: Traces of America's Ghosts
Liberia’s civil war ended a decade ago and the country is nominally, peaceful. Signs of progress assure donors and investors that their money is well spent. A couple of times a year, the government and businesses put a fresh coat of paint over all the buildings along the main roads. They paint over the mold and the wet, but in the soupy tropical air, the quick coating won’t keep the walls clean. And while the visible thumbprint of history fades with development, the consequences do not.
Liberia was never colonized by a outside force. In Liberia, it was an inside job. Freed American slaves founded the modern nation in the 1820s and turned around and enslaved the locals - reproducing the only power structure they'd ever known.
“Americos” wore top hats and hoop skirts despite the hot West African sun, and they kept the power and wealth for themselves. They built the foundations of Liberian society on discontent and inequality.
Centuries of grievances led to a coup and unrest in the 1980s, followed by a 14-year civil war that displaced a third of the country and left 200,000 dead. In a country of just three million people, no one was untouched.
But, the past will always out and fixing the surface doesn’t fix the problem. In my work, I seek traces of war wounds – psychological and physical – and examine the devices improvised to hide the hurt and embrace the present. I seek out signs of a time before the conflict, where a romanticized past is still visible. I try to understand what it means to live today without thoughts of tomorrow.