After series of conferences and workshops paneled by stakeholders and international partners on justice and war crimes, young visual artists have agreed that criminals should be prosecuted for atrocities that took place many decades ago in the country.
A campaign, “Cartooning for justice,” powered by Civitas Maxima, and executed by Global Research and Justice Project (GJRP), and the Liberia Visual Arts (LiVARTs) Academy, are working with young artists to depict happenings that occurred during the war through their drawings.
Fayia Williams, GJRP Deputy Director, said it interests him to know that some of the things the children drew are exactly what happened during the war.
Based on the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommendations calling for prosecution of perpetrators of war related crimes, Williams said the GJRP thought it necessary to document war crimes.
“We thought to educate and share these war crimes information with our young kids, who did not witness the war,” he said with a beaming smile.
From what the students have drawn; Mr. Williams said in the future, if there is a court, they can refer to those documents.
Civitas Maxima saw the need to have an inclusive youthful workforce that will do some visual representation to the outside world.
“Civitas Maxima group have been doing a lot of literature and legal matters, and this time decided to look for another medium where they can express, and reach out to the public in a more visual way, LiVARTS Executive Director, Leslie Lumeh said.
Cartooning for Justice began in August of 2018 with a series of workshops with young people from LiVARTS, and different institutions of learning in and around Monrovia.
“Our first workshop was held in August 2018, and we had a huge representation from LiVARTS Academy, other schools and young practicing artists”, Lumeh recalled.
A couple of works that were created by the young artists during the workshops were taken to Geneva, Switzerland for an exhibition.
“Our foreign friends were enthusiastic when they saw the cartoons,” Williams said.
The Liberia Visual Arts Academy (LiVARTS) under whose umbrella this workshop, has been effective in training young people in drawing and applying colors, which sends messages on education, health, social and political issues.
Civitas Maxima based in Geneva, Switzerland is working with another local none-governmental organization (NGO) in Liberia that fights for the rights of victims of conflicts, GJRP.
September 7, 2019, concluded the cartooning for justice workshop at the Newport Jr. High school in Monrovia.
By cartooning for justice, Leslie said it is one of the ways LiVARTS is contributing to the establishment of war crimes court in the country.
Leslie: “We are proud as visual artists to bring information in a more visual way to people who cannot understand when they read. We are also proud to create works that will bring justice and social change into this country and victims of civil conflicts. Our art works are serving a purpose that will go a long way into history,” Leslie assured.
Williams: “Because of the unwillingness on government’s part to establish a war crimes court as recommended by the TRC, 2003 up to 2012, there was nothing done to prosecute war criminals adding that “The more the years go by, the more we lose evidence.”
He said that the students learned about how Martina Johnson, a former fighter Jungle Jabbah, and others were prosecuted.
In the case of the three elements of penalties of crimes being committed: common, specific and lineage elements; the specific elements are what those children were able to draw, Mr. Williams said.
GJRP and LiVARTS say that the students are requesting more visitations, which implies that they have learned something new and would love to participate on many other occasions.
“We have the vision of going beyond where we stopped to keep our engagement with the kids, if more funding is made available”, Williams said.
GJRP called on the media to play a role in the quest for justice. “The media is the critical area where we have to attract, enforce and make things happen. On crimes that happen internationally, the media’s attention to these crimes can bring solution the GJRP maintained.
Most of the works that were created by the students in 2018 and 2019 are currently on exhibition at the National Museum.