From January to May 2014, Francois Beaurain wandered the streets of Monrovia and put in animated images the people met and places visited.
For better resolution images, click here.
Monrovia animated #108 -Wesseh Freeman before the storm
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. If you find this gif a little bit too silent follow this link.
Monrovia animated #106 -Mr Smith Lib Money International
Hipco is a hip-hop proper to Liberia which is sung in Liberian-English exclusively. Mr.Smith Lib Money International is one of the numerous MC of the Liberian Hipco scene. I met Mr Smith in the streets of Monrovia, he was looking for somebody to take some pictures of him. I am not sure that picture was what he was expecting from me...
Monrovia animated #105 -Christopolis
Monrovia has countless evangelical churches. Church is a flourishing business in Liberia and a major part of Liberians' life. Christopolis is the former name of Monrovia and the name of the church where this gif was shot.
Monrovia animated #104 - how to plait
Here is a typical scene of street life all over Liberia. While men mostly go to barber shops, women tend to get together, in the streets, below a tree or a veranda and plait each other's hair.
Monrovia animated #102 -chop my money
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.
Monrovia animated #101 - google house view
Monrovia has still a few old wooden houses left. These old houses have two or three floors. The roof and the walls are entirely covered with corrugated iron. From the outside, it looks like a turtle (see gif #011 below). This one was build 50 or 60 years ago and is still inhabited by a few families... but for how long?
Monrovia animated #098 -rickshaw
A few weeks after the pen-pen (taxi motorbikes) ban, the first rickshaws appeared in the streets of Monrovia.
Monrovia animated #097 -tournez manège
Ducor Hotel restaurant is a circular room with sea-view located at the entrance of the hotel. According to the legend Miles Davis played once in this room.
Monrovia animated #093 - lappa
While chinese products have invaded Monrovia's markets, numerous shops are still selling the lappas used to tailor traditional clothes.
Monrovia animated #092 - gear ball
Umbrella is the compulsory item you need to set up your own "small business" in Liberia. Monrovia has thousands small retailers protecting themselves from the sun and the rain with umbrellas. Umbrellas are part of the urban landscape and cover the entire surface of markets' areas.
Monrovia animated #091 -Liberian Emitting Diode (LED) display
Ducor Hotel had once a tennis court that is now mostly used by kids from the community that developped around the hotel to play football.
Monrovia animated #089 - Newton disc
Monrovia animated #086 -color belt
I met a lot of people in Monrovia who told me that they learned swimming in Ducor Hotel's pool. They are not many swimmers left now.
Monrovia animated #085 -after the rain
Monrovia has an average 5000 mm of rain a year. It makes Monrovia the rainiest capital in the world.
Monrovia animated #084 -well
Most of Liberian people do not have access to water and sanitation. Wells are important social places in communities where people meet and chat.
Monrovia animated #081 -downhill
Monrovia animated #080 -shake the throne
Countless churches have to compete to attract believers, posters for churches are some of the most common commercials in Monrovia. The lady on the photo allowed me to take off this poster only because she was not a follower of the "shake the throne" church.
Monrovia animated #077 -child soldier
"child soldier" is the most prominent cliché about Liberia. The fact that ten years after the end of the conflict this cliché is still present in international medias inspired this gif. Today in Monrovia the only guns the kids play with are made of plastic.
Monrovia animated #076 -guard shift
In Liberia, expats live in houses behind 3 meters walls doubled with barble wires. Private security companies control the access to these fortresses. In this compound for instance there were more guards than guarded people.
Monrovia animated #075 - KITT
Monrovia animated# 073- Mount Coffee
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.
Monrovia animated #071 - Princess
Princess is 14 years old and lives on the slopes of Ducor Hotel's hills . She's standing on the ruin of what should have been a small swimming pool in the past.
Monrovia animated #069 - Karate Bone again
Karate Bone is training three times a week at Ducor Hotel. He learned Karate abroad and is now teaching it to locals.
Monrovia animated #068 -Monrovia Falls
Ducor Hotel is built on a hill that was once surrounded with forests. This hill has been since chaotically urbanised and suffers from severe erosion. Heavy rains turn the streets into torrents and cascades erroding the foundation of houses.
Monrovia animated #065 - girl with the aubergine dress
Monrovia animated #063 -the future starts now!!
Government of Lybia owns a lot of real estate in Monrovia (including the building where the UN mission is based). In 2008, the government of Libya signed a lease with the government of Liberia to refurbish the Ducor Hotel. The works started in 2010 but were stopped by the civil war in Lybia. Sorry Ma'Ellen but the future will have to wait a little bit more.
Monrovia animated #062 -Karate Bone
Monrovia animated #061 -overtaken
Monrovia animated #060 -starfish
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 week-ends.
Monrovia animated #057 -swept out
Nobody would be surprized if I say that women do most of housework in Liberia...
Monrovia animated #053 -Bewitched
Monrovia animated #048 -Land art by Prince
Monrovia animated #047 -Monrovia Hells Angels
Cheap imported chinese motorbikes are the most common transport fro 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 motobikes (so-called pen-pens) from the main axes of Monrovia has severly complicated the life of many inhabitants but at the same time also made the streets safer and quieter.
Monrovia animated #045 -beauty salon
Monrovia animated #044 - former French embassy
The former French embassy is an impressive building close the US one that was looted during the civi war but never rebuilt. The current French embassy is more low profile, showing France's declining influence in Africa.
Monrovia animated #043 - wave pool
This is the only wave pool in West Africa!
Monrovia animated #040 - barber shop selfie
There is a important guinean community in Liberia. Apparently at ease with business, you'll find Guineans in a lot of shops in town.
Monrovia animated #039 - some more stairs
Emanda is a renown Liberian singer ( more about Emanda) who liked my gifs and voluteered to appear on some of them. He also wrote a song inspired by these gifs that I was supposed to put into images... sorry Emanda but you'll have to wait a little bit longer for the video.
Monrovia animated #038 -spaceship
Monrovia animated #036 - thief and cop
I had a difficult relationship with the guards of Ducor Hotel who did not like the drawings I did on 5th floor's walls. Emanda and his sense of humor helped to reestablish a friendly relationships with the guards. This gif is, by the way, Emanda's own idea. One of the guards is running after Emanda (or the contrary). I like it very much.
Monrovia animated #035 - Ducor stairs
Monrovia animated #034 - Ducor gears
Monrovia animated #031 - from the lighthouse
Monrovia animated #030 - at Ikea
Ikea has no stores yet in Liberia. Furnitures are locally made with discrete shapes and colors.
Monrovia animated #029 - swimming-pool
Monrovia animated #027 - Joseph J. Roberts
Here is Princess again, running in front of JJ Roberts memorial building. Born in the states, JJ Roberts emigrated to Liberia and became its first President. In Liberia there is a clear clash between native Liberians and Liberian-Americans (American slave descent). Nowdays, Liberia is politically and economically dominated by Liberian-Americans who usually live in between the two countries.
Monrovia animated #026 - untitled
Monrovia animated #021 - pie
Monrovia animated #020 - some stairs
Before the war, this house was inhabited by an important judge in Liberia. Like many former palaces in Monrovia, it is since the home of a few families.
Monrovia animated #016 - Ducor Hotel roof top
Monrovia animated #015 - Ducor Hotel 5th floor
During the first weeks in Monrovia I started to draw on the walls of Ducor Hotel, which gave me a lot of troubles with the guards and the owner. See "my Ducor" for more details.
Monrovia animated #011 - old shack
Here is an example of an old wooden house covered with corrugated iron. A few weeks after I shot this gif, the owner put a sign "for lease" in front of it. There are still a lot of old shacks in Monrovia but reconstruction is going fast now, destroying the last historical buildings left. One of the resident of this house, an old Guinean, gave me a message for his brother living in France. Back in France, I never managed to trace this brother and to give him the message.
Monrovia animated #007 - Soccer at Ducor Hotel
George Weah never contacted me to play for one of my gif, fortunately many kids were happy to show me their skills.