Francois Beaurain


Monrovia animated

Liberia, 2014

From January to May 2014, Francois Beaurain wandered the streets of Monrovia and created surprising animated images of the people and places he visited. This first-of-its-kind travel diary gives a fresh and poetic look at the country with one of the worst's reputation on earth.

"My goal was to find a new medium to depict a place that is always associated with negative images. This problem is recurrent to Africa in general but even more relevant in Liberia. The war is over from than ten years now but most of the stories featuring this country are still linked to the child soldiers as if the country was still a war zone. I wanted to show the routine, the daily life of normal people, to show the exact opposite of the images usually associated with Liberia. Because gifs can be repeated endlessly, they're the ideal medium to describe this routine.”

The series include 53 gifs in total, all available up to 1920 pixels (full HD) and as a 7'30'' full HD video. Monrovia animated has been exhibited worldwide and is currently part of Making Africa exhibition by Vitra Design Museum and Gugenheim Bilbao.



Monrovia animated #110 - synchrotron

gif, liberia, ducor, synchrotron, emanda, particle accelerator



Monrovia animated #109 - sunsets


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.

wesseh Freeman, liberia, monrovia, music


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, hipco, Liberia, gif




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, gif, liberia, christopolis




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, gif, liberia




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, gif, 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, gif, liberia, google




Monrovia animated #098 -rickshaw

A few weeks after the pen-pen (taxi motorbikes) ban, the first rickshaws appeared in the streets of Monrovia.

Monrovia, rickshaw, gif, liberia



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, gif, liberia, ducor




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, gif, liberia, lappa




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, gif, liberia, umbrella




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, gif, liberia, ducor




Monrovia animated #089 - Newton disc

Monrovia, gif, liberia, ducor




Monrovia animated #086 -color belt

I met a lot of people in Monrovia who told me that they learned swimming in Ducor Hotel's swimming pool. They are not many swimmers left now.

Monrovia, gif, liberia, ducor




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, gif, liberia, well



Monrovia animated #081 -downhill

Monrovia, gif, liberia, ducor hotel





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, gif, liberia, 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, gif, liberia, child soldier




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, gif, liberia, guard, security





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.

mount coffee, hydropower, dam, liberia, monrovia



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, gif, liberia, karate





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, gif, liberia, erosion, ducor




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.

Ducor Hotel, Monrovia, gif, liberia, ellen sirleaf





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, gif, liberia, shadow



Monrovia animated #053 -Bewitched



Monrovia animated #050 -Born to live



Monrovia animated #048 -Land art by Paco




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, gif, liberia, barber shop




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, gif, liberia, french embassy





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, gif, liberia, barber shop




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

ducor, Monrovia, gif, liberia




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, gif, liberia, emanda, ducor




Monrovia animated #035 - Ducor stairs

Monrovia, gif, liberia, ducor, emanda




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, gif, liberia, ikea




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 #025 - juggling



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.