The Ghosts of Congo

Baudouin Mouanda
2021

Seasonal Sky

 

“These photographs are to remind everyone of the need to preserve and respect the environment. The seasons have changed; the rains threaten as the wind moves the fronds of the trees. The leaves and the dust eddy and whirl, falling on the roofs, warning the inhabitants to be vigilant. When thunder shakes the house at night no-one dares to lock themselves inside, on the contrary, everyone is outside observing the sky.

 

We wonder what the following day will bring. We see the clouds moving, the stars disappear, we can feel the rain approaching. We try to guess the magnitude of the threat. No matter how much or how little, it is not welcome in some parts of Brazzaville. With buckets and saucepans we frantically try to keep the water at bay, but it is not easy to fight against its rising pressure.

 

For the elderly, who have spent their entire lives working hard, who have built their homes in preparation for retirement, their efforts seem in vain. They gather up their remaining belongings, even though they don’t know where to go. They abandon their homes, which have been ruined by silt and water. They point a finger at the sky, at the seasons: ‘only God knows’.

 

Unfortunately, the phenomena of nature cannot be controlled. Nature has its whims.”

 

 

Ghosts of the Corniche

 

“In the Republic of Congo, the sun doesn’t slowly set, it descends abruptly. As soon as it has disappeared the inky night engulfs Brazzaville. The incessant power cuts mean that students revise their lessons by the light of the street lamps.

 

This is probably the corridor to their future, their thirst for learning is strong and in order to learn they use any means possible. The main arteries of the city, the public spaces: airport, gardens, roundabouts and cemeteries. At home nothing works, there is the unwanted noise of clashing pots, lack of electricity makes it difficult to concen- trate and thus you are forced to go in search of a shelter that offers light and calm.

 

From the corniche of the Congo River the lights of Kinshasa can be seen. Whereas in this West African country of 5.2 million people, only 47% of the urban population has access to electricity. In Brazzaville, the students that find refuge in what they call ‘the great library under the stars’, are called the ‘Ghosts of the Corniche’.

 

Equipped with torches or headlamps they recite their lessons aloud as if on the verge of madness. In memory of my pavement past, where I wandered the streets reciting my lessons, and to illustrate the circumstances that the Congolese youth face every day, I offer you this photographic project.”

 

 

Baudouin Mouanda