Women Are Heroes, Liberia
Women Are Heroes, Monrovia, Liberia, 2008
After Sudan and Sierra Leone, Liberia was the third country JR visited as part of his project Woman Are Heroes. The story of the country has always oscillated between freedom and violence. As the first African country to become independent, in 1847, Liberia carries the name of its emancipation. In 2005, it was also the first African country to elect a woman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as President.
Although the country is at the forefront in terms of liberation for its people, it remains a conflictual place likely to develop strong crises. From a terrible civil war in the 1990’s to the resurgence of a threatening period since 2008, women are often the ones who endure violence as collateral damages.
When JR heard about the situation in the country on television, he decided to go and meet the population on the spot. JR gained the trust of those women who lived in misery, and listened to the personal tragedies they carried in silence: child murders, rapes, physical violence, migration.
Pasting their portraits in public spaces created unique situations: “Often, in those places, when I pasted women’s portraits, men were the ones who ruled the street, and those who helped me to paste. […] It was during the process making [of the pasting], that the strength of the interaction came up with young Liberian rebels who might have raped those women before, maybe, during the conflict.” JR added: “I went closer to see the broken bridge. Rebels came to look at me. In fact, they were curious. […] They wondered what it was for, they were making fun of the team as we were stumbling on the slope of the bridge while we were trying to paste, but they finally helped us. They started to paste, they enjoyed it. […] Suddenly I realized what was happening: those men were lawless and now they were here, pasting the portrait of a woman, cautiously, patiently, strip by strip. It really struck me. I have seen many similar scenes in countries where men find themselves in very paradoxical situations."
By turning those women into artistic subjects, they can exist in another way than just pain and sadness.