There is a need to dream of a future with better leadership, with international monitoring of mineral production, so these conflicts will not bring the financial reward for the victor they have done in the past…. There is a need to dream that the wealth of the Congolese people will be used for the benefit of the Congolese people, not for the benefit of international mining companies, military groups and corrupt leaders. ~ Marcus Bleasdale
Snugly located at the corner of Red Lion Square, on the boundary of Bloomsbury and Holborn; the Conway Hall could be mistaken for one of London’s best kept secrets. It was founded in 1929 to promote free speech. And to that we were served by the UK-based not-for profit organisation Connect Congo.
Leslie Thomas of Art Works Projects curated the exhibition using work by photographers such as Dominic Nahr and Marcus Bleasdale, and writers such as Tim Butcher and Adam Hochchild. The theme being ‘I Dream Of Congo’ led to a combination of images and words from the contributors being juxtaposed around the room, such as that of homeless children accused of being child sorcerers as well as photographs of female rape victims. A gloom reality, which still persists in parts of Eastern DR Congo.
The objective of the exhibition was said to help raise awareness on the current Human Rights abuses and the ongoing plague faced by the local communities as a result of the illicit trade of mineral resources. A holistic approach, focus was placed upon celebrating the optimism that pervades in the region instead of its clustering troubles. Congo Connect also sought to highlight to its invited guests the importance of urging and pressurizing local MPs (members of the UK Parliament) to put DR Congo at the forefront of their agenda.
A picture is worth a thousand words
Hope survives even in the darkest places, and nowhere is this more evident than in eastern DRC ~ Nicola York, co-founder of Congo Connect
Where Congo Connect distinguishes itself, is in its ability to use a multi-media exhibition of photography, narratives and music as a medium for discourse. As a central theme, ‘I Dream Of Congo‘ makes an evocative statement, injecting echoes of hope in a dire and complex situation. An effective method of introducing the humanitarian crisis in the Eastern Congo to persons new to the subject.
In addition, Congo Connect partnered with Women for Women International to help facilitate involvement from some Eastern Congolese women whereby, written words and photographs taken by them would feature in the exhibition alongside those of other contributors; echoing their dreams for Congo.
‘I Dream Of Congo‘….. I have a dream….
I would have liked to see more Congolese people present. I feel, yet again, that the huge Congolese Diaspora community living here in the UK is not being given a platform to share their experiences and perspective on the situation in their homeland among listening ears.
I do not want to sound too pessimistic about the exhibition; yes, the images were unquestionably sympathetic. Yes, contributors did a marvelous job at capturing the essence of the theme, and perhaps each organisation has to begin somewhere; meaning, raise awareness about the cause that they are fighting so passionately for in order to gain support and funding. However, as a Congolese, one cannot help but question the effectiveness of such exhibitions. Is raising more awareness necessary? At which point direct action will commence? Why not create schemes whereby investors of any nationalities (including middle class Diaspora Congolese) can inject capital into local businesses in order to generate something more sustainable for instance? Perhaps, Connect Congo organisers could have had a petition at hand for its 200 guests to sign on the spot to get things started.
As a well-informed Congolese female, I did not leave the exhibition feeling more enlightened or optimistic about the Congo crisis. In contrary, it made me realise the stark mountain of challenges we as Congolese do face. It will take a revolution of the mind, widespread disillusionment; a movement of support as seen during the time of the Vietnam war perhaps to end the cycle of violence and impunity in Eastern Congo.
Nonetheless, the I Dream Of Congo: Narratives From The Great Lakes exhibition opened in spectacular styles and was executed perfectly. If anything can be said, is that, it achieved one of its purpose: raising awareness and informing some attendees; many who I spoke to, had never heard of the Congo conflict, nor the illicit trade of minerals, nor the rapes being used as weapons of war to displace communities prior to attending the exhibition.
Well known Congolese keynote speakers such as GMFAfrica founder Noella Coursaris Masters and SaveTheCongo founder Vava Tampa took to the mic, while poet JJ Bola graced us with his lyrical flows, echoing a Congolese’s dreams for the Congo of tomorrow.
Exhibition Dates and Times:
The Congo Connect exhibition will run from 12th-26th February 2013 at Conway Hall London, before moving on to further venues in the UK and US throughout 2013.
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RAPE ME TENDER
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