Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Original Two Monrovias

Kru Town, 1932 by Paul Julien. As posted on the Liberian Observer. 

This upcoming exhibit has been written about elsewhere, most notably at Liberia Past and Present, where Fred adds some interesting context to the unique and itinerant Dutch Liberiophile Paul Julien, who seemed to be a particularly curious and observant fellow, just the sort of witness to the footnotes of history that could be hoped for, such as this under-documented era of Liberia's history.

I was particularly intrigued by his remarks about the contrast the indigenous settlements so close to Monrovia with the mannered and increasingly prosperous hilltop capital. From his comments on the juxtaposition of Krutown, which was situated approximately where the Freeport is today, and the central city:
Paul Julien visits Krutown and describes it as being in a "sharp contrast to Monrovia, of which it is not even two minutes walking distance away. [It] consists completely of square huts with grass thatched roofs. It is obviously situated on the shore, with a wide sandy beach separating it from the surf." 
When comparing the two he makes sure the Belgian audience will understand what he means, by relating to what they should know. "Up, in Monrovia, the city still reminds one of a capital city, with streets and buildings that, even though only from afar, remind one somewhat of Europe." While in Krutown, "The narrow muddy alleys that wind in a marvelous disorder through the village are the set for the life of the coastal residents. Small naked youngsters run around in the sand.
It seems even in the pre-war era, the phenomenon of the Two Monrovias existed.  Julien's photographs and a film will be on display at the National Museum in July and August.

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