The brilliant images capturing the women’s ingenuity and pride were shot in Lualaba, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo of Congolese women and girls who are accessing better lives with the help of Hear Congo.
Based in Kinshasa with a U.S. office in Miami, Hear Congo is an organization focused on empowering Congolese women through education and entrepreneurism.
Prior to connecting with Hear Congo most of these young women, like tens of thousands of others, toiled at the country’s cobalt mines under dangerous and indecent conditions, often facing physical and sexual abuse at the mining site.
Governor Richard Muyej has been a reformer in the province ensuring better labor conditions and wages, supporting mining industry initiatives. The HEAR Congo program has been selected by the African Development Bank as the best model to provide social reinsertion for children and youth who have worked in the mines.
The photos capture the young women’s poise, beauty, determination, and hope in posed shots of them dressed in some of the gorgeous attire that they both designed and produced. In addition to design, needlework, and associated facets of the fashion merchandising business, the girls can also pursue training in cooking, catering, and nursing which is especially compelling in light of the pandemic sweeping the world.
“I am so proud of Barry Harley, his photography team, and the women of our Hear Congo organization themselves who posed for these portraits,” said Kaleba Huguette Ngoie-Kasongo, founder and executive director of Hear Congo and UN Women Miami Chapter board director.
“These images truly brought to life the struggle for financial freedom and independence our girls and women are waging. I also want to thank Governor Richard Muyej for his vision and leadership in funding and supporting some of Hear Congo’s programs. Now, the world can see we are making great strides in stopping one of the last bastions of modern-day slavery!”
Harley’s powerful documentary photography has brought these women’s lives into view for people around the world who might otherwise know nothing of the senseless and tragic day to day struggles they have endured working the mines.
“I have really tried to focus my images on the people themselves,” said Barry Harley, a Washington, DC area portrait artist and commercial photographer. “ Having the Tenke region setting as our backdrop, with forced child laborers visible in the background brought some real drama and power to the photography. We are pleased to be recognized by Communications Arts.”
Today, through Harley’s discerning eyes, we can see “Eliane” and “Niclette” and imagine countless others who could benefit from similar assistance.
With this new honor, Harley’s photos, along with those by 120 other photography winners chosen from a field of 2,511, will be published in the July/August 2020 issue of Communication Arts, both in print and digital editions. More than 25,000 copies of the issue will be distributed worldwide.
In addition to the award, Harley has previously exhibited at a larger gallery in Miami featuring many of the “Out of the Mines” photos in March 2019— which included photos showing the friends and relatives of the girls in their villages and surrounding areas. The Hear Congo program was covered by a Miami television station and area art magazines.
Exhibitions in DRC, 2019
Lubumbashi, on June 13th, 2019, at the Galerie D’Art Contemporain, Musée National de
Kolwezi, on August 27th, 2019, at the Africa Development official launch of the project “Alternative Welfare of Children and Young People Involved in the Cobalt Supply Chain (Pabea-Cobalt).
About HEAR Congo
HEAR Congo operates three centers in the DRC, but it is headquartered in Miami. The organization is focused on helping Congolese women. Their mission is threefold: heal impacted women and give them the most fundamental human right of a healthy and safe life, educate them so that they can unlock their potential and achieve prosperity, and empower them with both social and economic autonomy.