Deep inside the Democratic Republic of Congo lies the Salonga National Park, a seemingly endless tropical forest bathed in rivers and swamps. Larger than Belgium and a World Heritage Site in danger, these jungles are home to forest elephants, the endemic bonobo and Congolese peacocks. Communities of these remotes areas have shared the generous resources of the forest for ages, finding in it a way to eat, to be cured and to be sheltered.
But, in a country plagued with decades of economic turmoil, ranked 176 out of 188 according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) 2014 Human Development Index ranking, poaching and bushmeat trade take a heavy toll on the wildlife.
Wally, a local farmer and drawer aged 51, already sensed the price paid by biodiversity, and decided to fight poachers back with skills he developed during aborted studies in art. Lacking pencils, sometimes drawing on Braille paper to get blank sheets, hearing ecology news when his son brings him back books and newspapers from the capital Kinshasa, his artworks are messages. Pasted before his home, they tell his community the necessity to protect and educate to environmental conservation.
And while the youth of his town struggle to get any income, sheet after sheet, his grassroots action aims to shift mentalities, to spread a long-term vision were the resources of “Monkoto Town” would come from conservation rather than hunting. For he’s convinced not only that his grandchildren may never see a live elephant, but also that his forest harbors treasures for the whole humanity.
Video & edit: Etienne Maury/hanslucas.com
Photographs & co-direction: Leonora Baumann/item