The "Lolendo" photo series is an artistic and documentary project which questions the condition of sexual and gender minorities in the DRC, "silenced" and "invisibled".

Proven by virtue of research in the humanities and social sciences, the existence of homosexuality in Africa predates the colonial or imperialist periods. In his groundbreaking text published in American Anthropologist in 1970 under the title: “Sexual Inversion Among the Azande”, Edward Evan-Pritchard (1902-1973) unpacks existing homosexual practices among the Azande. Found in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it was customary among Azande men to take young men as spouses. Historical, anthropological and sociological studies undertaken since then have contributed to the understanding of the place of homosexuality within the context of African societies through the course of time. This stream of research, which forms part of a progressive recognition of the rights of Lesbiens, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Intersex (LGBTI) in North America and Western Europe, has also documented increasingly pronounced stigmatisation against LGBTIs on the African continent.

How do we depict the place of homosexuality in African societies today? And how can photography help turn the clock backwards, to make it socially acceptable as in times past? So how do we change people’s mentalities? « By decolonising their imaginations » ?

Undertaken in the first quarter of 2015 in DRC, the Lolendo photographic project seeks to find an answer to this burning question. Taking its name from Lingala, Lolendo stands for pride. It is a portrayal of LGBTI persons whose existence is denied. While it is not punishable by law in DRC, that society has become more hostile in its perception of homosexuality, contrary to its past traditions. Today, some consider homosexuality as both immoral and a western import. Some even equate it with witchcraft. The myth persists, encouraged by political and religious leaders, of a pre-colonial Africa in which relations between people of the same sex did not exist. Congolese homophobes, and African homophobes in general, use this argument as a way of rejecting homosexuals and stripping them of their African-ness.

But it’s homophobia that the colonisers introduced in Africa, not homosexuality. African culture, traditions, and ancestral values of openness were never opposed to homosexuality, on the contrary. It was during the period of slavery and colonisation that a hierarchical theory of human beings was introduced and, therefore, a moral judgement of homosexuality.” The impact of these collective representations — characterised by insults, humiliation and ostracisation from family circles — is particularly unsettling. Those at the receiving end of such acts of discrimination are most vulnerable to violent attacks, or even suicide. The stigmatisation endured by LGBTI people is evidenced by the discrimination they face in terms of access to healthcare, all in a country confronted with high levels of HIV infections.

In the longterm, actions undertaken by local organisations as well as international advocacy groups can contribute to resolving this social and health crisis by reminding the powers that be of their obligation to uphold Human Rights in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Like all attempts at photographic documentaries, Lolendo seeks to contribute in its own way. It is an attempt to restore the image and dignity of those who have been subjected to various forms of discrimination that have made them even more vulnerable, leaving them in harm’s way. Lolendo invites to step outside the confines of Western interpretation and to be more receptive to other narratives around the way that the LGBTI community is and has been perceived. Narratives which, leaving Africa aside, should make Westerners question their own representations of homophobia and its history. The notion of time, whether posing for photographs or studying a photographic work, is as vital here as it is anywhere else. It confirms that the promotion and the respect of rights cannot be achieved without the will of those in power or the courage of those concerned - who by exposing themselves are herewith exhibited.


"Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes -- when that day has come and gone, there'll be people alive on this earth -- gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free."

Vito Russo, speech delivered at an ACT UP zap at the Department of Health, Albany, New York, 9 May 1988

Bibliography :
- Aids Pandemic From Kinshasa, Scientists Say :
- JACQUES PEPIN. Aux origines du sida, Enquête sur les racines coloniales d'une pandémie, 2019
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- CAMPBELL DAVID. The Visual Economy of HIV/AIDS. A report for the AIDS, Security and Conflict Initiative, May 2008.
- WILL ROSCOE & STEPHEN O. MURRAY. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities, 2001.
- THOMAS HENDRIKS. SIM cards of desire: sexual versatility and the male homoerotic economy in urban Congo, 2015.
- EVANS-PRITCHARD, EDWARD EVAN. « Sexual Inversion among the Azande. » American Anthropologist, 72(6), 1970.
- «Revue de performance du PSN VIH en RDC, Contribution de Médecins du Monde (3) Minorités sexuelles et de genre», MDM, 2013.
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- «Rapport sur l’état d’avancement de la réponse à l’épidémie du VIH/Sida». Kinshasa, Programme National Multisectoriel de Lutte contre le Sida, 2014.
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(Some first names are borrowed).
 German journalist Carl Gierstorfer unveiled the origin of AIDS in 2014. An investigation that shows the responsibility of the colonial powers for the emergence of this epidemic that remained deaf for a long time. American researchers have traced the evolution of human contamination by the AIDS virus, thanks to the viruses contained in paraffin, which they trace back to 1908 in French Equatorial Africa (AEF).
 AIDS, a colonial legacy:  In the years 1908, it was the colonial exploitation of Central Africa that brought the AIDS virus back to Kinshasa, then called Leopoldville. But this city is not a city like the others in colonial Africa. The capital of the Belgian Congo is in full swing. Growth that goes hand in hand with the emergence of transport and in particular that of the railway developed by Belgium. Matadi - Leopoldville, the first railway line built in Central Africa. It is 366 km long and was built between 1887 and 1898. Kinshasa is a hub of trade and thanks to the train, 1 million people travel every year. Its economic expansion is also leading to the arrival of immigrant workers and the explosion of priced sex. An addition of factors that favored the circulation of the virus in the surrounding areas, and later in the world.
The imperialist aims of Leopold II combined with Stanley's explorations bore fruit at the Berlin Conference of 1885. Most of the central basin of Africa and the areas around it constituted the independent state of the Congo became Belgian colony from 1908 to 1960. The need of the development of navigation appeared from 1887. The UNATRA (National Union of River Transport) will be created in 1925, at the origin, was constituted by all the boats of SONATRA and CITAS. It had made arrangements with the Colonial Government and the mail service had been greatly improved, with schedules corresponding to those of the ships connecting Anvers to Matadi and the Eastern Railways and Great Lakes. The First World War revealed the importance of the Belgian colony as a source of raw materials.
 Three railway lines were built during the period of the Congo Free State between 1887 and 1908, namely: the Matadi-Leopoldville line, partially the Boma-Tshela line of the Mayumbe railway and the Stanleyville line - Ponthierville.du CFL (Compagnie des railways du Congo higher than the great African lakes).
 Tribute to the martyrs of colonialism and AIDS
The Funerals of Tata, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Sylvie, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Raphael, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Junior & Benjamin, Barumbu district, Kinshasa/DRC
Véronica & Jeannette, Limete district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Laure, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
Papy, Matongué district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Greg, Limete district, Kinshasa/DRC
Jean, Gombe district, Kinshasa/DRC
Claudia, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Vincent, Limete district, Kinshasa/DRC
Ronny, Limete district, Kinshasa/DRC
Belinda, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
Blaise, Kintambo district, Kinshasa/DRC
Olivier, Kintambo district, Kinshasa/DRC
Norella, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Trésor, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Régis, Kintambo district, Kinshasa/DRC
Daniela, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
Lukengo, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Dada, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Belly, Matongué district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Eric, Matongué district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Julie, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Coco, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
Micha, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Blanchard, Kintambo district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Olivier, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
Steve, Kintambo district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Patou, Bandalungwa district, Kinshasa/DRC
 Pamela, Limete district, Kinshasa/DRC
Claudia, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC
 In this country of 74 million people, currently numbering more than one million people infected or affected by the AIDS virus, only 12% of people eligible for ARV treatment actually benefit, or 50 000 of the 430,000 people living with HIV / AIDS in the Congo. In comparison, in sub-Saharan Africa, the average ARV coverage is 54%. In addition, less than 5% of pregnant HIV-positive women living in the DRC receive ARV treatment; which means that the 95% of them may transmit the virus to their future children. (2015 Statistics, acording to a UNAIDS report.)
 Tribute to the martyrs of colonialism and AIDS

The Funerals of Tata, Kimbanseke district, Kinshasa/DRC