Makeshift: Chased by Liberia’s civil war, Abraham Quaye built a new community — Finding Peace Island
words and photo: AARON LEAF
Ten years ago, a friend told Abraham Quaye about a place in Monrovia’s mangrove swamp where he could build a house. An actual island, with good land, close to the city. The best part, the friend said, was that they’d be the first ones there. This was important to Abraham. The Liberian civil war had just ended. As displaced people returned to Monrovia from camps abroad, space was limited and pressure to find new land enormous.
No bridge connected the island. Just a mess of iron poles, remnants of one of the endless structures destroyed during the war, suggested a rough path through the water. By 2004, Abraham and other pioneers would wade through the mangroves, building materials hoisted over their heads; during high tides, canoeists would help ferry them across. Now 85, Abraham’s extended family surrounds his modest home.