Marcus Bleasdale has clearly felt the "continued vibration" of Conrads words
his photographs also attest to the remarkable spirit of the Congolese people. -- Professor Robert Hampson, Royal Holloway, University of London, Conrad Editor for Penguin Books
Marcus Bleasdale has produced a sensitive but by no means sentimental portrait of an extraordinary nation and its thwarted people. -- Michela Wrong, Author of IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MR KURTZ
The raw beauty of Marcus Bleasdale¹s photographs vividly illustrates the daily human struggle for survival along the mighty Congo River in Africas darkest region. -- Tom Stoddart, Photographer
From the Author
Twenty years after first reading Heart of Darkness, I found myself sitting on the banks of the Congo River revisiting Conrads words. Waiting in Brazzaville for my first ferry to Kinshasa, I looked up from the page.
Drunken police and soldiers were whipping travellers who strayed out of line with the chicotte, a legacy of Belgian colonial rule; rifle butts found a home in the backs and temples of a group of suspected looters, later hauled screaming to jail. Chickens squawked and polio victims shouted as they dragged themselves along the ground toward the ferry and their free trip to
Kinshasa, their capital of Hell.
A few months later I found myself an inmate in a different Congo jail, watching the sad and the destitute slumped against walls. We were hungry, fed rice only three times a week. We huddled together with shadows of Kurtz cast by light from the one small window in the filthy cell door. The treatment by the guards was brutal, inflicting constant beatings, humiliation and abuse. Pairs of eyes stared at me in the darkness and I felt I was watching "the complete deathlike indifference of unhappy savages" that Conrad must have seen first-hand as a riverboat captain before he wrote
During that first trip up the river I was struck by the enduring accuracy of the images Conrad described. With every step I took and boat I travelled on I could hear his words. It was in these shadows of riverbanks, hospitals and cells where I began to witness Congos true horror: the Congolese leaders have assumed the guises of their colonial predecessors and, life for the Congolese people is as desperate and as dire as it was in the time of Kurtz. Now I have spent two years following, not Conrad, but the Congolese. Seeing their shadows as he first saw them, recording with each frame their anonymous lives, witnessing through the lens of Conrad, the imprint of one hundred years of darkness.