Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

The aftermath of conflict captured beautifully

Trauma, Healing and Hope is an exhibition combining audiovisual material about survivors of conflict and trauma and 50 photographs by award-winning photographer Marcus Bleasdale.

It opened at the United Nations headquarters in New York and at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on Tuesday.

Bleasdale’s photographs, taken over the past 20 years, range widely around the world but focus particularly on those places where human well-being is most severely compromised by conflict. His aim, he says, is “to influence policymakers around the world”.

Cambridge-educated and Oslo-based, Bleasdale “researches the sources of financing driving the conflicts, which usually leads to the mines and the armed networks linked to them”. For instance, the work collected in his 2009 book, The Rape of a Nation, documents the situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where millions of people have died or been virtually enslaved in an ongoing war “funded by the extraction of the minerals used in everyday electronic products”.

The results, as photographs, are often very beautiful; the horror that underlies their narratives, however, is hopefully visible to those with any power to end it. 

A child soldier with the Mayi-Mayi militia waits in Kanyabyonga, Democratic Republic of Congo, as rebels advance. He was recruited as young men in the area were being abducted by the rebel forces. He didn’t want to be forced to fight, so he volunteered with the Mayi-Mayi (Marcus Bleasdale)

Your work is clearly a kind of activism. How did your commitment to this kind of photographic work evolve?

It started in Kosovo in the 1990s, when I first used a camera to understand and communicate conflict.

After that I travelled widely, documenting the impact natural resources have on financing conflict, and that took me to Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), Liberia, Uganda and Rwanda, among other places, and I started to understand the impact that was possible [if I worked in] collaboration with advocacy groups.

Early in the 2000s I started working closely with Human Rights Watch, and the collaboration continues. I work to try to enhance policymakers’ understanding of the causes and the impact of conflict, in the hope that increased understanding leads to long-lasting solutions.

What sorts of personal or institutional responses are you looking for?

I would like these institutions to understand more deeply the causes of conflict.

At each different stage of each conflict, the targeted audience changes with respect to the response needed to improve life for those living with conflict.

As a photographer, I work together with activists to target those institutions at specific times to create the right engagement.

How do you choose the places you visit? It seems there are several areas to which you have returned a few times.

I return many times to conflicts over many years. I have been working for nearly 18 years in the CAR and DRC. The choice is about impact. How much impact can I create with the work I do? I try to target those areas and issues I feel I can contribute the most to with regard to impact.

What are the specific aims of this particular exhibition? How does it dovetail with the work of the ICC, for instance?

Awareness is key, as is hope. We all must understand that justice is important for conflict resolution and the institutions charged with providing an opportunity for justice are essential for good future governance.

Creating and re-communicating that message over time is important in developing and enhancing that awareness. Only then can we give hope to those living with conflict.

READ MORE: Beyond the photograph

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Shaun de Waal
Shaun De Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Mkhize tenders resignation as Ramaphosa calls top six meeting, fueling...

Mkhize’s resignation and the top six meeting are the clearest indicators yet that Ramaphosa is intending to make a much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle

Zuma funder link in Phoenix killings

Weapons have been seized from a number of security companies owned by ANC-linked individuals who are loyal to the former president

More top stories

Markets react as Mboweni steps down in Ramaphosa cabinet reshuffle

ANC economic policy head Enoch Godongwana takes over the finance portfolio

Mkhize tenders resignation as Ramaphosa calls top six meeting, fueling...

Mkhize’s resignation and the top six meeting are the clearest indicators yet that Ramaphosa is intending to make a much-anticipated cabinet reshuffle

Zuma funder link in Phoenix killings

Weapons have been seized from a number of security companies owned by ANC-linked individuals who are loyal to the former president

ANC factions united on Zweli Mkhize

Despite agreement that it would be politically ‘unwise’ for the president to remove the health minister before the Special Tribunal makes its decision on the application by the Special Investigating Unit, he may have just done so
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×