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Representing Oneself In The Congo

When young people in the Congo document their daily life, the results include surprising glimpses of lightness and joy.

  • Jeremie, 15 yrs. old, taken by his dorm buddie, Roger, at the PAID Orphanage

    Image 1 of 2

    Photo: Roger

    Jeremie, 15 yrs. old, taken by his dorm buddie, Roger, at the PAID Orphanage

  • Fanny Malesa, 16 yrs old. Taken by her dorm buddie, Placide Mbingole, at the PAID Orphanage

    Image 2 of 2

    Photo: Placide Mbingole

    Fanny Malesa, 16 yrs old. Taken by her dorm buddie, Placide Mbingole, at the PAID orphanage.

Event Information

Eyes Behind the Camera: Congolese Share Their Story

An exhibition of photographs taken by children in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a participatory media project.


Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington

Through April 22, 10 am-5 pm

free

An exhibition currently on view at the Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington offers a view of daily life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as seen by through the eyes of young people in the central African nation.

Eyes Behind the Camera: Congolese Share Their Story is the result of a partnership between a Congolese school and orphanage, Program of Aid and Integration to the Underprivileged (PAID), with Giving Back to Africa, a Bloomington-based, international nonprofit.

A Partnership To Combat Poverty

Michael Valliant is Giving Back to Africa’s administrative director. “The community where PAID is based is quite literally the poorest of the poor,” he explains. “That’s  really saying something for the Congo, which is a dramatically poverty-stricken, conflict-ridden place. On the UN Human Development Index, they are 167 out of 168.”

Giving Back to Africa is dedicated to making a long-term investment in educating young people in the central African country (formerly known as Zaire). Giving cameras to the children at PAID was a youth-empowerment initiative directly in line with the organization’s mission.

“What we’re about is giving kids opportunities through education to improve their lives,” says Valliant, “and — we hope — be sources of positive change.”

The Images

From the 500 pictures taken by the students and their teachers, the organizers selected images that include a boy dribbling a soccer ball, a girl jumping rope, and elders relaxing in chairs under a shady tree.

“One of the goals of this project,” said Valliant, “was to show that in the midst of all of this need and poverty, are incredible sources of happiness, play, and possibilities.”

The images, accompanied by text written by the students and their teachers, are on view at the IU Art Museum through April 22. Plans are in the works to tour Eyes Behind the Camera around the state and the country, along with an exchange program that would give Monroe County school children the same opportunity to document their lives, with the ultimate goal of an exhibition at a Congolese venue.

More photographs from the participatory media project can be seen at Giving Back to Africa’s Facebook page.

Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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