In Liberia, not many cartoonists use their craft to campaign for justice for victims of injustice. To address this void, Civitas Maxima by Friday is expected to graduate its first cohort of young cartoonists, to solely focus on using their craft to campaign for justice.
According to the organization, the idea for the “Cartooning for Justice” workshop is to use a cartoon to contribute to an active and informed debate about the importance of justice.
“Through the workshop, we intend to diversify and democratize the discussions around justice in Liberia. We are encouraging students to express their opinion on the topic. There are many things to be considered when talking about punishment for war-time crimes in Liberia, but we want to show that anyone can take part in this debate.
“The participants in the workshop are very talented. With the skills they learned, I believe they are equipped to convey messages through cartoons,” Civitas Maxima said.
Hassan Bility, Director of the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), explained that the ongoing training addresses how the main theoretical or philosophical approaches to the justification of punishment relate to and can inform a debate on the question whether crimes committed during the civil wars should be punished in Liberia today.
According to Bility, the “Cartooning for Justice” workshop will empower students with necessary skills of storytelling and drawings, in order to find artistic responses to the question whether crimes committed during the civil wars should be punished.
“This is the combination of knowledge and arts is a way of igniting the flame of justice. The use of art is a significant step in molding the minds of young people, in order to help them see justice as a necessary foundation for democracy and economic improvement,” he added.
The workshop is a collaboration between students from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva; the Liberian Visual Arts Academy; the independent Swiss-Congolese artist JP Kalonji; the GJRP and Civitas Maxima, with funding from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace Foundation.
A retired cartoonist (name withheld) said part of the reason not many cartoonists are involved in using their craft to campaign for justice is that those in the field are underpaid and not seriously regarded in the country.
“Media institutions, which only few employ cartoonists in the country, don’t pay well, making us vulnerable to leaving the field. So I hope they address this issue. If not, all of the people they are training will forget the quest to use a cartoon to campaign for justice,” the cartoonist said.
“Arts gives people the freedom to talk about things they fear or admire. In Liberia we need to talk about justice” said Leslie Lumeh, Director and Instructor at the Liberian Visual Arts Academy.
Civitas Maxima and the Global Justice and Research Project have been key players in collecting evidence and conducting outreach in relation to trials abroad. Together they run the “Liberian Quest for Justice” campaign, which provides independent reporting from courtrooms through multiple artistic tools, seeking to raise awareness and help victims fight for justice.