Glimpses of People and Places in Monrovia, Captured Through Cinemagraphs

monrovia

Monrovia is the capital of Liberia, the West African country that was founded by the United States and settled in the 1800s by mostly freed slaves (hence its name, which means “land of freedom”).

When French photographer Francois Beaurain visited the city in early 2014, he spent five months wandering the streets and documenting this land that he previously knew nothing about. He then created a series of cinemagraphs — or “moving photos” — that offer a glimpse into what Monrovia is like.

Beaurain was in the country because his girlfriend was doing humanitarian work in the capital. His project, titled “Monrovia Animated,” is an attempt to show a different side of Liberia than what’s often shown in the media — stories of bloody conflicts and human rights issues.

Here are some of the cinemagraphs found in the project along with the captions written by Beaurain:

Beaches a few kilometers outside Monrovia are made of clean white sand inhabited by fishing communities. They offer a nice escape and good surf for weekends.

The former French embassy is an impressive building close to the US one that was looted during the civil war but never rebuilt. The current French embassy is more low profile, showing France’s declining influence in Africa.

I met a lot of people in Monrovia who told me that they learned swimming in Ducor Hotel’s swimming pool. There are not many swimmers left now.

This is the only wave pool in West Africa!

Mount Coffee hydropower plant was built in 1966 to provide power to Monrovia. In the 90’s the facility was looted and destroyed. The plant is now in rehabilitation and is expected to be back to work in 2015.

Ducor Hotel is built on a hill that was once surrounded with forests. This hill has since been chaotically urbanised and suffers from severe erosion. Heavy rains turn the streets into torrents and cascades eroding the foundation of houses.

Ducor Hotel once had a tennis court that is now mostly used by kids from the community developed around the hotel to play football.

Nobody would be surprised if I say that women do most of housework in Liberia…

Most of Liberian people do not have access to water and sanitation. Wells are important social places in communities where people meet and chat.

In a dollarized economy where US and Liberian dollar cohabit, money changer is one of most common “small business” in Liberia.”Chop My Money” is a song by Nigerian R&B duo P-Square and is an extremely popular song in Liberia.

Wesseh Freeman is a blind musician from Monrovia making his living singing in Duala market. He learned the music by himself and built his “guitar” out of an oil can. His music is about the war, the history of Liberia and his own life. The story of Wesseh Freeman is not really clear to me. What I understood is that he turned blind when he was a kid and was then kicked out from his home. This is when he would have started to learn and play the music.

Monrovia has countless evangelical churches. Church is a flourishing business in Liberia and a major part of Liberian life. Christopolis is the former name of Monrovia and the name of the church where this was shot.

A beauty salon

Cheap imported Chinese motorbikes are the most common transport for people and goods in Monrovia. You can easily put up to 3 or 4 people on a motorbike like this. End of 2013, a ban excluding motorbikes (so-called pen-pens) from the main axes of Monrovia has severely complicated the life of many inhabitants but at the same time also made the streets safer and quieter.


Image credits: Cinemagraphs by Francois Beaurain and used with permission

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