In the Congo Tales photo series, national Congolese staged a carefully curated selection of their mythologies for photographer Pieter Henket, who is best known for his work with some of today’s most well-known pop culture icons.
For Congo Tales, we asked Henket to activate his unique talents in partnership with the people who’ve lived in harmony with their surroundings in the Mbomo region, in the middle of the Odzala Kokua Park, for centuries.
The resulting photo series channels the heartbeat of one of the world’s most powerful ecosystems and the people who call it home. It amplifies the voices and the culture of the people who live in the Congo Rainforest, rather than excluding them, and reveals some of the magic and mystery of this little-understood place and its incalculable value to the planet.
In the coffee table book the photography is paired with written adaptations of Congolese mythological tales about supernatural forces in control of life and death, initiations into adulthood, the laws of nature and much more. These adaptations are the result of extensive research in partnership with multiple individuals such as S.R. Kovo N’Sondé, Theophané Bokanga and August Miabeto, who were paramount to our understanding of the final scriptures.
This book was published in 2018 by Random House / Prestel, and was shown in several museums and exhibition spaces around the world, including the launch in VWELA Cultural Center in Brazzaville, the Museum Barberini in Postdam, Germany, and the Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle, Netherlands.
In collaboration with Tales of Us we also self-published a special Lingala version of Congo Tales in which was distributed in education centers in Mbomo and Brazzaville.
The first edition prints of the photos were auctioned by Christies, with 100% of the revenue reinvested in cultural and educational initiatives in Mbomo.
Since its publication, Congo Tales has helped bring global attention to the Congo Rainforest and the people who live there, with coverage of the book on the front page of the New York Times International Edition, on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, BBC Radio and Monocle Radio; and on PBS Newshour.