Reaching for Dawn
Liberia does not talk about its bloody civil war (1989-2003). No memorial has been built, no day is dedicated to commemorate. Still held by some of the protagonists of the carnage, the country still refuses to condemn its executioners. This silence, amplified by an international silence, sweeps away any social recognition of the tragedy and denies the essential character of a collective memory, generating a deep feeling of surrender coupled with a sleepy resignation. The trauma of an entire population crystallizes in a society with clay foundations and transpires on a new generation with a troubled future. Elliott Verdier’s photographic and sound work was spread over two years. The shots were taken all over the territory, from the diamond mines of Gbarpolu to the fishing port of Harper, passing by the huge slum of Westpoint. The silver photographs, made with a 4×5 camera, offer two intermingled sequences, one in black & white and the other in color. In addition, there are studio recordings in which we listen to the voices of women and men, victims or executioners, who narrate their damaged destinies.
For Reaching for Dawn, illustrator Sacha Von Villard designed the cover, while author and rapper Gaël Faye, as well as activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee accompanied Elliott Verdier’s images with their respective pens.