I’ve now been to Harper, a small town in southeast Liberia, twice. Visually, it’s a fascinating place. I hope to keep going back there to continue this documentary project. See more images on glennagordon.com.
Liberia’s past and future have been and continue to defined by an antebellum American power structure transported to Africa. That all went up in flames – literally – during Liberia’s civil war in a way that has eerie similarities to the American south and our Civil War.
Harper is an amazing place. It’s a two day drive (or one hour flight) from Monrovia, and was once the capital of an autonomous state called Maryland, the original home to some of the freed American slaves who later founded Liberia. Now, all that’s left of that power structure is vestiges of burned out mansions, a stone mason temple filled with stagnant water, and tributes to a small town boy who made it big, former President Tubman.
Liberia’s story is very much about its relationship to America, and how freed Americans slaves created a social hierarchy here that was an underlying factor in the two decades of destruction and war.
The visual remnants of that legacy in Harper are decaying every day and will soon disintegrate. As they disappear, so too does evidence of an important part of Liberia’s past. I hope to document this place as it is now, and before a new generation of Liberians won’t be able to know where they came from, and subsequently, where they are going.