Cartooning for Justice

There has never been a project like this before here in Liberia. It is so important that Liberians take ownership of this project. What we are doing is good for the kids. 

Leslie Lumeh – Director of LivArts
A cartoon has incredible communicative power. It is a medium for social awareness that can be used to encourage change, spark debates, express anxiety, and inspire hope. 

The first workshop was launched in 2018, and 30 art students attended. “Should wartime crimes be punished in Liberia today?” was the question tackled by the students who, during four full days, learned classic storytelling techniques and cartooning skills. Through group discussions, we freely encouraged them to debate existing justice measures, reflect upon their conceptions of justice, and the need for war crimes accountability. These focused discussions were dedicated to theoretical foundations and justification for punishment, including theories of consequentialism, retributivism, and restorative justice. Additionally, the students discussed how these theories might be applied within the context of post-conflict Liberia.

The lessons, drawing exercises, and discussions all contributed to the larger goal of having the students engage in debates on justice and accountability in Liberia for its 14 years of civil war (1989-2003). Even though some of the students did not live during the war, the young Liberian generations’ war-trauma is evident: in their cartoons they recreated situations and fears that are now part of the Liberian collective memory.

Since 2018, LivArts, GJRP, and Civitas Maxima have continued their outreach efforts. In 2019, the cartoons were displayed at a partner event of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) with an exhibition called “Without Justice our Wounds cannot be Healed”. Few months later, the same exhibition was hosted at the National Museum of Monrovia.

In 2022, three additional workshops were held in different schools in Monrovia. The seminars provided the children with the tools to demonstrate their own perceptions of the conflicts. Through their drawings, the strength and brutality are raw and unedited, and the legacy of violence is indisputable. This illustrates how conflicts not only affect the people that lived through them: it is a burden carried from generation to generation, especially regarding conflicts where no one has been held accountable for the crimes committed.

“Cartooning for Justice” was initially funded by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace Foundation grant, which was generously donated by Felix Lüth and Livio Silvia-Müller, students of the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Swiss-Congolese cartoonist, JP Kalonji, also contributed to the program.