Current Issue

Strong Stitches: Quilters, Cultural Knowledge, and Rebuilding Communities in Post-conflict Liberia

Stephanie Beck COHEN
IJCCI volume 2, issue 1, November 2014

Liberian quilters grow community networks and execute government commissions deployed as diplomatic gifts. Originally an artistic tradition brought to West Africa by American settlers in 1820, women have been quilting in Liberia for nearly two centuries. Nineteenth-century quilts visually promoted specific ideas about Liberian society as modern and prepared to engage in the global economy, mining Liberia’s diverse natural and cultural resources for iconographic content. However, since the civil war (1990-2003), quilters’ work changed as older communities were disrupted, causing artists and their work to adapt new functions, content, and techniques within conflict and post-conflict Liberian life. This article analyzes three ways that women artists contribute to the national rebuilding project in post-conflict Liberia: through reconceiving national imagery in a traditional medium, by training young Liberians in the art form, and through crosscontinental engagement with the global fine arts world.

Keywords: Indigenous women artists, Africa, Post-conflict society, Government commissioned art,
Collaboration, Liberia

Category: Industry Insight