THROUGH A SERIES OF PORTRAITS PRODUCED FOR UNICEF, THE PHOTOGRAPHER GWENN DUBOURTHOUMIEU GIVES THE FLOOR TO CONGOLESE CHILDREN AND ALLOWS THEM TO REALIZE, WHILE CAPTURING A BRISK PHOTO, THEIR DREAM.
For more than two decades, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been plagued by multiple conflicts with serious humanitarian consequences. The country has 3.8 millions of internally displaced persons, the largest number for any single country in Africa, and an estimated 8.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, including 5.1 mil-lion children. Two million of them are malnourished, and 7 mil-lion do not have access to any form of education.
In such an environment, I legitimately wondered: what are their plans, their aspirations? And by the way, do they still have dreams? Children are the future of a nation, and in a country as restless as the DRC, they represent hope.
I have been working regularly in the DRC since 2010, including reporting on UNICEF activities and children’s daily life in Congo. By definition, when doing these photographic re-ports, I am interested in the present moment. At a time when countries around the world have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, provide quality education for all, protect the planet and promote the creation of peaceful and open societies by 2030 I wanted to photograph not only the daily lives of Congolese children, but a representation of their future. By 2030, the majority of children photographed today will be adults: what will they become? And above all, what do they want to become?
To achieve this modest representation of the next generation of Congolese people, I visited 8 of the 26 provinces of the country, and met about fifty children of different ages, gender and backgrounds. Many children in Congo seem to have pragmatic dreams: as everywhere, many of them wish to become doctors, lawyers – universal symbols of professional success – or teachers. Fewer people have more amazing dreams, like Percide, who dreams of becoming an astronaut to “improve communication between the people who go to the moon and those who have stayed on earth”! Depicting the dreams of children required of me to think fast, to adapt and improvise. For Percide, for example, the first idea was to realize the photography with, as background scenery, a landscape of big telecommunication antennas that I had spotted in Kinshasa’s outer suburbs, on my way to Nsele. As I was unable to obtain per-mission, the photograph was taken outside the UNICEF office, on a construction site, using as decorations a pile of reddish-coloured rubble evoking planet Mars. For his suit, I used my motorcycle helmet (which I had luckily brought with me to the Congo) in which I slipped two PVC pipes, and a flag borrowed from a desk!