Photos by © Marcus Bleasdale
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Authors: Dr. Alexander L. Fattal, Marcus Bleasdele • Resource type: Art
Marcus Bleasdale’s images of the conflict in eastern Democratic of Congo (DRC) emerge from a decade-long immersion in the troubled dynamics of that region. In the background of his images that highlight human suffering, exploitation, and displacement, is a land bedeviled by its riches. By documenting how the quest for mineral wealth reconfigures the social and economic landscape, Bleasdale opens windows onto the importance of understanding the “resource curse” that has beset eastern DRC.
This photo-essay juxtaposes vibrant color and dramatic black and white images. Whereas the former accentuates the fecundity of the landscapes, the latter, with its silver chemicals layered onto the veneer of the film creates a grainy affect, a visual gesture to the labor minerals extracted from the earth. Through Bleasdale’s lens we see how the rivers and rain, mud and mountains, trees and trails are enmeshed in the conflict’s ebb and flow. These images place the horrors of the war in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in their ecological context, insisting that viewers contemplate the connections between human suffering and mineral extraction.
What political scientists call “the paradox of plenty” does not respect man-made borders, and, neither does the conflict in eastern DRC, which is tied to the interlinked tragedies of the Great Lakes region. The war has its roots in colonial and post-colonial politics that have spilled from one country to the next. Despite the United Nations’ efforts to broker an end to the conflict, insert its peacekeepers between the ever changing group of armed actors, and provide basic infrastructure for the steady flow of refugees, the war in eastern DRC has continued in different guises for the last twenty years, making it one of the most protracted and devastating wars of the young millennium. The millennium, however, is not as young as the majority of war’s fighters, many of whom are recruited at the onset of puberty. Bleasdale’s images are a moral alarm, a call to respond to a human tragedy that the world has largely forgotten, even as the minerals that emerge from that conflict invisibly wind their way into our daily lives.
— Alexander L. Fattal
University of California, San Diego
Copyright information: Photos are copyright © Marcus Bleasdale