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Liberia 77 is a project dedicated to a country and its people. This West African country devastated by military coups and civil wars for a brief time was home for Jeff and Andrew Topham, now two Canadian photographers but then only two kids that moved with the family to the Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia in 1976, to follow their father’s job.

It is in this period that the passion for photography was transmitted to them by their dad who documented the family’s life in Africa with his camera. Those pictures of the late ‘70s became part of the brothers’ identity and the physical, visual support of their memories.

In 2010 Jeff and Andrew decided to go back to Monrovia to see and understand what happened to the country in 20 yeas of civil unrest. This experience allowed them to reconnect emotionally with their childhood but it also inspired the documentary film project titled Liberia77.

In the quest for their own personal memory, they realized that the photographic memory of the country had disappeared during the civil wars, when the possession of photographs was interpreted as a sign of wealth and could cost ones life. To avoid getting into trouble people burned their albums, their family pictures and also the collections of museums were destroyed, leaving the country deprived of an important part of its heritage and its national and individual memory.

The dynamic relations between seeing and knowing were broken by the conflict. Liberians are now missing an important tool to share and transmit history to the new generations. Fragments of their identities are gone forever and this project is trying to start the difficult task of restituting to the nation some of these fragments, collecting images and creating a new photographic archive.
Jeff and Andrew need support for their amazing project so please if you are interested in donating pre-war photographs of Liberia, click here.


Patrizia

 
 
Dr. Dacia Viejo Rose a researcher at the University of Cambridge is a specialist in conflict and cultural heritage issues. I met her during a presentation of the CRIC research project held in Paris in mid-January. My interest was to grasp how her way of thinking on these issues had evolved over the course of her career.

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_She first took interest in the construction of cultural identities while doing her BA in International Relations at Tufts University in the mid 1990’s. Her interest was sparked by a debate then growing in the EU on the role of culture in establishing a comprehensive European identity embodied in the creation of traditional nation-state symbols for the EU such as a flag and anthem. She was intrigued by how this discourse was defining new boundaries of exclusion and inclusion and she studied the topic by looking at evolving attitudes towards Roma communities in the EU and towards relations with Turkey.

After obtaining her BA, she had a chance to observe the complexities of post-disaster work (post-conflict and natural catastrophe) during an internship with the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva before doing a Masters jointly taught at the University of Bath, Sciences Po and the Sorbonne in Paris on contemporary European political culture.

Subsequently she worked for three years at UNESCO. First she worked under Máté Kovács (today at the Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa) working on the project “A Cultural Approach to HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care”, then under Yudhishthir Raj Isar in the Cultural Policies for Development Unit, and finally under Katerina Stenou (now chargée d’affaire UNESCO- Kazakhstan) when she managed the UNESCO Cities of Peace Prize (2000-2001). 

Her time at UNESCO coincided with a period during which the organization was attempting to implement its mandate in relation to the Dayton Peace Agreement in Bosnia-Herzegovina bringing together ministers of education and culture from the former Yugoslav Republics to discuss ways ahead and avenues for cooperation.  She decided to use a vacation to visit the heritage reconstruction projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Serbia. Amongst others, she attended presentations of the Mostar Bridge reconstruction and of the ARS-AEVI museum projects and spoke to heritage professionals working at a number of cultural institutions in Sarajevo and Belgrade.  This trip was fundamental in her thinking on the issue of culture and conflict; through it she became aware that many cultural heritage reconstruction projects that aimed at reconciliation were unwittingly contributing to entrenching the lines of division and resentment created by the conflicts.

In 2002, she moved to London to research this topic under the guidance of Professor Patrick Boylan, this resulted in a dissertation evaluating attempts to use cultural heritage as a tool for mediation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. From 2003-2005 she worked as the coordinator of the European Cultural Foundation's UK National Committee and as a researcher at both International Intelligence on Culture (directed by Rod Fisher) and the Center for Creative Communities (directed by Jennifer Williams). During this time she was able to explore issues around the role of culture in an enlarged EU (through a series of seminars organized at Chatham House) and the various funding avenues available for projects that involved the arts and creative practices in managing conflict within communities.

Dacia moved to Cambridge in 2005 to do a PhD. At first she had in mind to do a thesis comparing the impact of war on cultural heritage in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Spain. Yet, on discovering vast amounts of largely neglected archival material on the reconstruction of cultural heritage in post-war Spain, she decided to focus entirely on her own country of origin, one in which she was able to read not only the language itself but also the various subtleties of sub-text and censorship. Her study of Spain lead her to discover the importance of references to cultural heritage in war-time propaganda,  its rhetorical and visual violence, as well as the destructive dimensions of many post-war reconstruction policies. In 2006 she founded the Cambridge Post-Conflict and Post-Crisis Group (PCPC) in an effort to create links across disciplines within the university and between the various fields of practice – such as NGOs and military personnel - and academia. This group organized a two-day international conference in June 2008 “The Culture of Reconstruction” inaugurated with a lecture by Paddy Ashdown. Through the group between 2009 and 2011 Dacia ran a series of workshops together with Dr Naoise Mac Sweeney entitled In the Wake of War.

In 2008 Dacia became a research associate on the EU funded research project Cultural Heritage and the Reconstruction of Identities after Conflict (CRIC), based at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at University of Cambridge, and lead by Dr. Marie Louise Stig Sørensen.

_Reconstructing Spain
CRIC researcher Dr Dacia Viejo-Rose from the University of Cambridge
discusses various dimensions of the reconstruction of cultural heritage
More videos on the CRIC projects
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Since January 2012, she has taken up a three-year British Academy Post-doctoral Fellowship to do research on the topic of cultural violence/violence against culture. With this project she hopes to gain a better understanding on the motivations and intentions that underlie deliberate attacks on cultural heritage..

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_Publications:

Her first book, titled Reconstructing Spain: Cultural Heritage and Memory after Civil War (Sussex Academic Press, 2011) has just been released – the book will be officially launched on 16 February at the London School of Economics (LSE). She was a contributor and guest editor for the Cultures and Globalization Series, volume 4. Heritage, Memory and Identity (Sage, 2011), a contributor for volume 1 in the series Conflicts and Tensions (Sage, 2007) and has an article in a recent volume of the Memory Studies (October 2011).

She has also contributed several chapters for forthcoming publications of the CRIC research.


Laurence Lepetit