I Dream of Congo: Narratives from the Great Lakes

I Dream of Congo will highlight many of the incredible untold stories of bravery, strength, positivity and innovation from eastern DRC in order to challenge the viewer to look beyond the usual jaded war reports and the perceived intractability of the issues to gain a fresh perspective.

Contributors including Marcus Bleasdale, John Le Carré, Lynsey Addario, Tim Butcher, Ron Haviv, William Boyd and Eve Ensler have all responded to the phrase ‘I Dream of Congo’ in the exhibition.  Women in eastern Congo were provided with cameras and notebooks and also responded to this phrase. With citizen journalism so active in other conflict zones, we wanted to give a voice to the often under-represented communities in eastern Congo who are affected by the ongoing conflict, which recently escalated when M23 rebels invaded Goma, North Kivu .

I Dream of Congo aims to put pressure on UK ministers to address the urgent issues of sexual violence and instability that are blighting eastern Congo at the G8 summit in June in Northern Ireland. Anne Marie Kalenge, one of the women who has participated in the exhibition, writes:

“I have sacrificed my life to build our family home. I wish peace could grow quickly so I can enjoy living in it without the daily threat of displacement.”

Tim Butcher, author of Blood River, has contributed this statement to the exhibition:

“I dreamed of Congo long before I came to know it. It filled my dreams with charms and challenges. And when my journeying finally took me there, I recognised its warmth, air and aura. How the spirit to survive works in the Congo. Now let us free the spirit to thrive.”

Nicola York, co-founder of Congo Connect, says:

“We are delighted that so many incredible writers and photographers have contributed to ‘I Dream of Congo’. Our aim is to shed new light on a region that is often dismissed as having intractable problems and expose the untold stories of bravery and hope that exist in a region that has suffered from conflict for almost two decades. Hope survives even in the darkest places and nowhere is this more evident than in eastern DRC.”

The exhibition has been curated by Leslie Thomas of ART WORKS Projects and produced by Congo Connect – a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness of human rights abuses in the DRC through the arts.

It will be shown on selected dates between 12th-23rd February 2013 at Conway Hall before touring to other locations in the UK and US. Selected works will be auctioned off following the exhibition’s tour and any proceeds will go towards assisting grassroots projects including Panzi Hospital, the City of Joy and Women for Women International’s projects in eastern Congo.

The current list of contributors is: Lynsey Addario, Marcus Bleasdale, JJ Bola, William Boyd, Michael Christopher Brown, Tim Butcher, Jean Chung, Eve Ensler, Stella Feehily, Peter Frantz Ron Haviv, Adam Hochschild, John Le Carré, Fiona Lloyd-Davies, Phil Moore, Dominic Nahr, Jehad Nga, Ben Rawlence, Jeffrey Tayler, Jonathan Torgovnik and Michela Wrong.