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19 July 2015

Congo, Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin at The Rencontres d’Arles 2015

A photographer, in a certain sense, paints with light. sometimes, however, a photographer must work—painstakingly, patiently—with shadow, in order to bring the latter into real life and show us a hidden aspect of reality. This is, in large part, the secret of this exhibition. Its main character is the Congo, my homeland, which I revisit thanks to Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin. Theirs was not an easy task. should they view the Congo from a distance, or melt into the background, into the population, so that these people might live a real existence and express themselves regardless of the camera lens? Because the photographers resisted the temptation to exaggerate, they succeeded in making my own land ‘foreign’ to me, revealing a different Congo, one I didn’t expect. In doing this, they successfully avoided the commonest misapprehensions of Africa viewed by Western eyes: anthropological reporting and exotic travel tales. Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin confirm that true photography restores independent existence or specific meaning to what seems distant, even devoid of interest. True photography respects modesty without lapsing into self‐censorship. such scrupulous balance is palpable in this work. I can image the wanderings of the photographers, their search for the perfect image, their talks with local peoples to gain their trust. I imagine also that during the whole time this enterprise lasted, they must have been fulltime ‘Congolese’, living with the inhabitants, sharing their joys and sorrows, fording swollen streams, mingling with crowds of excited urchins, threading the banks of tributaries, observing the endurance of the river workers. The result does not disappoint: emotion is present and often poignant when confronting the images of certain empty, sinister buildings, worn‐out vehicles abandoned on the side of a road, a tree trunk sawed through by a single determined man…

Alain Mabanckou, writer


With support from Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives.

Curation and scenography: Daria Birang.

Photographs: Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives, 2014.

Executive Production : Jonathan Roquemore for CTAI and the artists. Technical direction : Marco zanella.

Publication: Congo. Photographs by alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives/Aperture, 2015.

Documents : Studio Linda, Brazzaville.

The artists wish to thank Stefania bosso, Giorgio Salimeni, Alessio Cupelli, Alessandro zoboli, valentina Sestrieri, Sveva Taverna, Luca vianello, bartolo Piccione (Koiné).


Avec le soutien de Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives.

Commissariat et scénographie de l’exposition : Daria Birang.
Photographies : Alex Majoli et Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives, 2014.

Publications : Congo. Photographies d’Alex Majoli et Paolo Pellegrin, Cherry Tree Arts Initiatives, 2014 ; Congo. Photographs by Alex Majoli and Paolo Pellegrin, Aperture, 2015.
Tirages réalisés par les artistes.
Encadrements réalisés par La Soaza, Pianello Val Tidone.
Exposition présentée au Magasin électrique,parc des Ateliers.