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The Peace Builders | How Liberians (literally) build more peaceful lives

Marola Vaes | Liberia

The Peace Builders series is about how people in post-war Liberia improve their own lives. It is meant to offer a stage to stories of great human resilience.

In this regard Winston Goffa (portrait) had many stories to share with me. During the Liberian Civil Wars (1989-2003) he witnessed his best friend die in a tragic shooting. He also lost both parents, at age 15. How Winston worked and still works to rebuild his life was a main topic in our interview.

The Peace Builders is an ongoing, narrative-driven, documentary photo and video series visualizing the extraordinary ways in which Monrovians strive to improve their lives.

The series intimately portraits six inhabitants of capital Monrovia, Liberia, in their living spaces and chronicles their unbelievable stories: from surviving civil war and poverty, to building new homes, to personal dreams and lessons learned.

Rebelling against the common conception that peace is built in a the top-down fashion, the photographs below capture the faces behind six unique narratives, and the ways in which Monrovians themselves build more peaceful lives, often quite literally.

Special thanks goes to Daniel Coleman for his research assistance during our interviews. Local research partners are instrumental in helping researchers like me navigate in challenging contexts, like urban Liberia. Especially when we work with sensitive topics and sometimes fragile communities, I think researchers cannot appreciate and credit enough the value and protection we -and our research participants- receive from local partners. 

After three years of empirical victimology research that took me from Cambodia’s Killing Fields into the living spaces of Liberian war survivors, I decided that research alone simply does not do justice to human experience and relationship between the researcher and ‘the researched’.

So, I followed my instincts to purchase a camera and record the incredible stories of the people I interviewed in Liberia, West-Africa. This led to my first-ever mini documentary series “The Peace Builders” (2019), which chronicles the extra-ordinary lives lived by six inhabitants of capital Monrovia. Photographs and the first video of the project that capture their compelling stories can be found in the exhibition, while video production is ongoing. 

Love, and my savings

E-mail: contact@marolavaes.com

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