Images of young Liberian rebel fighters with hand grenades and children lying lifeless on the ground were on display at the Bronx Documentary Center at a Nov. 3 opening. The War and Peace in Liberia photography exhibit pays tribute to photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros who lost their lives capturing a brutal war in its entirety.
Hetherington and Hondros worked alongside each other during the war, which was waged between 1999 and 2003, exposing and documenting atrocities committed by the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy rebel group. Through their work, the pair alerted the world to the toll of the war after escaping Liberian militia forces, but were killed by artillery fire in Misurata, Libya in 2011.
Over 300 guests, including UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, were on hand for the opening.
The Bronx Documentary Center’s co-founder Michael Kamber, who curated the exhibit and also covered the conflict in Liberia, said that although the work was harrowing, the warmth of the Liberian people despite their tragedies moved him.
He called covering the war “terrifying. Artillery, rockets and machine gun fire everywhere.” And yet, he added, “Liberians, even in the worst of it, would bring you into their homes and feed you and give you shelter. I felt a strong connection with them and that was the reason why I wanted to showcase this piece of work.”
The exhibit features some never before seen images of the war, many of them showing the destruction of homes, and women and children being killed by rebels.
“Their work galvanized and brought the international community to action,” said the UN’s Chief of Public Affairs Peacekeeping force Nick Birnback, who also attended the opening reception. “What we want to do in this community-driven organization is to play a role in paying tribute to their work and generating support for the United Nations.”
Nigerian-born documentary photographer Yemi Ojabamila said he was moved by the images on display.
“This will remind us of things we have been through and how to bring a global talk of peace in a way that people can all live together without any dispute. It’s a reminder for us all,” he said.
War and Peace in Liberia, along with events showcasing what life was like in Liberia during the war, will be on display to the public until December 16.
The center is located at 614 Courtlandt Avenue and is open from Thursdays and Fridays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.