Brutal Exposure: the Congo

24 January to 7 June 2015

old photograph of a man with a badly injured arm

'Lomboto, shot in the wrist and hand by a rubber concession sentry and permanently disabled as a result', early 1900s. The Harris Lantern Slide Show © Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP

This exhibition has closed

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This haunting exhibition presented what was probably the first photographic campaign in support of human rights. It documented the exploitation and brutality experienced by Congolese people under the control of Leopold II of Belgium in the 1900s.

Please note: Brutal Exposure contains content that some visitors may find distressing. Parental guidance is advised.

The photographs, by missionary Alice Seeley Harris, were at the time a radical and significant shift in the representation and understanding of the impact of colonial violence in the Congo, and exposed the deep-rooted hypocrisy of so called 'colonial benevolence' which cost the lives of millions of Congolese.  The campaign led to public pressure and international scrutiny of Leopold’s administration, which came to an end in 1909.

The legacy of Belgian violence and exploitation would tragically re-emerge years later after the Congo gained independence in 1960, with the murder of the country’s first legally elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba. 

European exploitation of the Congolese people and resources has shaped the country's recent history and the effects are still evident today. 

This exhibition was developed in partnership with Autograph ABP and Anti-Slavery International.

Partner exhibition in London

old photograph of two men in chains

To coincide with Brutal Exposure: the Congo , Autograph ABP and Anti-Slavery International also presented the exhibition Congo Dialogues  at Rivington Place, London from 14 January to 7 March 2014.

Please note that this partner exhibition has now closed.

Image: 'Manacled members of a chain gang at Bauliri. A common punishment for not paying taxes', by Alice Seeley Harris, Congo Free State, circa 1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP