Monrovia – Art students draw the complexity of whether or not war-time crimes should be punished in Liberia today. With the increasing demands to end impunity of those past crimes, Liberian artists were empowered to contribute to this debate with their artistic skills through a four-day “Cartooning for Justice” workshop held in Monrovia.
The students learned storytelling techniques, games, and improved their cartooning skills while also engaging in discussions on the theoretical justifications for punishment of international crimes, including war crimes, and its application in the Liberian context.
“We never had a workshop that combined justice and cartoons. At the beginning, I was skeptical about it, but now I see that it makes a lot of sense. I feel I can contribute to the debate with my drawing skills” said one of the students.
While the students expressed varied opinions on the question, overall, certain themes were drawn by most. All of the cartoons demonstrated a need for justice and/or reconciliation in Liberia. Most drawings exhibited the dynamics of power and how power can inhibit justice.
“Remarkably, the students expressed varied opinions on whether or not wartime crimes should be punished in Liberia through their cartoons. I think they are well on their way to contributing to informed debates on justice and accountability using their artistic skills.” Said one of the organizers of the event, who prefers to remain anonymous.
The workshop is part of an outreach project that combines art with understandings of international. With funding from the Kathryn W. Davis Peace Foundation, the project was conceptualized by students at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, in partnership with Civitas Maxima in Geneva, the Global Justice and Research Project and the Liberian Visual Arts Academy in Monrovia.
In conjunction with the “Cartooning for Justice” workshop, a roundtable event was held. At this roundtable discussion, esteemed individuals weighed in on the debate of whether or not wartime crimes should be punished in Liberia today. Participants at the roundtable reviewed the abstract arguments supporting consequentialism, retributivism, and restorative justice as they could be applied in the post-civil war context in Liberia.
From both the cartooning workshop and the academic roundtable discussion, it is evident that education and awareness are essential in continuing the momentum for justice and voices will be restored to the voiceless in their quest.
“Art plays a significant role in supporting movements for change everywhere in the world. We have a unique opportunity here in Liberia to use art, like cartoons, like music, like theater, to maintain the momentum in Liberians’ quest for justice.” said Hassan Bility, Director of the Global Justice and Research Project.