The Uncanny

© Léonard Pongo

The Uncanny is a series of black-and-white photographs taken by Pongo in the DRC between 2011 and 2017. The images were taken during several of the artist's trips to the provinces of Kinshasa, Katanga, and Kassaï-Central after the violent elections of 2011.

While the choice of black and white is reminiscent of documentary and photojournalism, Pongo departs from this to incorporate blurriness, contrast, and movement. Instead of photographing political events from a journalistic distance, he takes a different approach, immersing himself fully in the Congolese atmosphere and culture to show the collateral impact of political events. Over a seven-year period, the artist documented his experience of the varied and complex environment that is the DRC, eluding any attempt at a single interpretation. The images show scenes of often urban and nocturnal everyday life in the aftermath of the election. "This project arose out of a need to see my country from a different point of view to that of the crisis so often portrayed. I used my familiarity with the setting to tap into the openness of the local people, who wanted to share their most intimate moments with me. This allowed me to represent my country in an intimate and personal way. I'm not trying to get at the truth here, I'm simply trying to understand the real lives of these people and reconstruct my own." [Versteeg, 2019]

The figures appear alone or in groups, in contexts that are spiritual or festive, joyful or conflict-ridden, while their emotions range from boredom to anger. The shots are taken both indoors and outdoors, in intimate settings or theatrical poses. The gestures and gazes, often sustained and intense, challenge the viewer and question the neutrality of their position.

"For a place so often seen through images of devastation and disaster, this series offers an intimate view at the heart of the Congo: private moments marked by great sadness but also hinting at joy and dreams." [Versteeg, 2019]