By Arwen Kidd
I have heard the city of Greenville, located in southeast Liberia, described as “an oasis”. A place full of booming businesses, where nice houses overlooked the river, and plenty of job opportunities held great promise for locals and expats alike. Supermarkets, nightclubs, running water… They say Greenville had it all.
Walking along its streets today, this “oasis” is hard to imagine.
Rusted fire hydrants and crumbling sidewalks are some of the only hints of a once developed past. Near the entrance to the city’s dilapidated sea port, a massive ship lies abandoned, beached on its side – just as it has lain for the past decade, ever since it was sunk during what some Liberians still refer to as their own “World Wars”.
Back in town, a few small shops provide residents with little more than the basics. Most are manned by children, or the elderly.
Graffiti is everywhere.
Yet amidst all the ruin, there are signs of progress. With international companies slowly moving back in, jobs are becoming available once more – the area’s first reliable income since the 1990s. Along the main roads, wooden power poles mark freshly dug holes – the promise of a future filled with light. And on one corner, a Total gas station sits in its final phase of construction – in modern day Liberia, the truest sign that change is on its way.
At the city’s main photo studio, nestled between two “pioneer houses”, a couple of teenage boys translate the transformations they see around them. “Greenville,” they proclaim, “is coming up”.
For now, at least, it’s enough to give a person hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, Greenville “the oasis” will one day rise again.
About the Photographer: Arwen Kidd, Liberia.
Since 2005, she have worked with internationally, concentrating largely on projects based in West Africa, as well as Eastern Europe. During this time, Arwen have directed, produced, shot and/or edited more than fifteen films – travelling with my her own equipment and learning to find creative solutions in sometimes challenging situations. She also spent time reporting for a local newspaper in Ghana, helped present a human right radio show in rural Cameroon, served as a multimedia trainer supporting local journalists across Liberia, and was hired as a ghostwriter (co-authoring a novel that took her to three different continents).
Along with her own projects, she often undertake work for NGOs and produce news and features for various magazines and online sites. To date, her work has appeared in a range of publication, including Global Post, Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), and World Vision Report among others.