Army's time in Liberia captured


An exhibition of photographs chronicling the Army's experiences in Liberia has been opened by BBC correspondent, Fergal Keane in his native Cork as part of the Defence Forces' contribution to Cork 2005.

Welcome to Hotel Africa is an exhibition by award-winning British-based photographer, Simon Norfolk that interprets the day-to-day lives of Irish troops serving in Liberia in 2005.

The project was co-commissioned by the Defences Forces at Collins Barracks and Cork 2005 and also received support from The Sirius Art Centre in Cobh and O'Callaghan Properties who are hosting the exhibition in its new gallery on Lavitt's Quay.

Simon Norfolk, who spent several weeks with the Irish soldiers as they went on patrol in their armoured cars in Liberia, said he was very happy to be commissioned to photograph the peacekeepers at work.

"Because everyone talks about Africa as darkness, I wanted to get away from that sort of cliched idea so I photographed the camp which is always full of light and activity because the army is on standby 24 hours a day ready to roll," he said.

"So you have this contrast between inside the camp and outside in the countryside which is desperately poor - the country is completely smashed after 15 years of civil war - I've worked in Afghanistan, but the fighting there was localised, where in Liberia it was everywhere.

"Because I'm British, my feelings about the army have always been about the British army and I was never very happy with some of the things they've done, so it was great to work with an army that I can support doing something like peacekeeping," he said.

Brig Gen Pat Nash, GOC 1st Southern Brigade, said the Army was very pleased to be involved in a Cork Capital of Culture project. "I had seen the proofs some time ago and that was one thing, but to see the full size prints is something else, and you can see Simon's attention to detail is quite remarkable - there's very little soldiering, but it gives you the background and the environment in which soldiers work."

The exhibition runs at 21 Lavitt's Quay from August 12th until September 2nd.