Past Present Future: Liberia
Background: History and Our Original Project
In 2003, a peace agreement ended fourteen years of internal conflict in Liberia. By then, the country’s infrastructure was decimated and hostilities between various communities were widespread. The fourteen years of civil conflict were characterized by violence, affecting the entire country.
Ten years later, Liberians are rebuilding their country and its systems while recognizing the need to build “peace from within”. They are working to find ways to carry the memories of the past without being held back by them.
In 2007, Survivors’ Truths' founder Dove Pressnall had been working for two years in Liberia, training trauma counselors and supporting transitional justice processes. She was moved to document some of the stories of how people survived more than fourteen years of intense conflict (more background on the situation in Liberia) and interviewed Liberians about their wartime experiences — focusing on stories of survival. Interviews focused on the knowledge, capacity, courage, and connections that allowed Liberians to survive in an unbelievably hostile environment, while Chris Herwig captured portraits of incredible beauty. Dove believed that these resources, which were sustaining in the face of unbelievable hardship, could be a foundation for rebuilding lives and community cohesiveness. These original interviews and photos weave together as a tapestry of hope and survival. The initial project exhibit has reached thousands of people, including Liberian diaspora, and was taken back to Liberia in 2010.
Survivors' Truths Liberia
Though Dove moved back to the United States, Cooper continued the work in Liberia and formally registered Survivors’ Truths Liberia with the Liberian government as a peace-building organization in 2013.
In the years since, Cooper and the Survivors' Truths Liberia team have been continuing to work with government and NGO groups to promote peace and development on the ground and to build connections with diaspora communities around the world.