JOIN THE JOURNEY ! CHE IN CONGO
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CHE IN CONGO is a photo and documentary series that aims to follow the footsteps of Che Guevara’s secret mission to Congo that took place 50 years ago. Using an icon from the past to dig deeper in the current situation of Congo. Join the journey. More ...
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On the eve of the 50th Anniversary of Che Guevara’s secret mission to Congo we will follow Che’s footsteps to Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

CHE IN CONGO is a unique approach to understanding Congo's past, present and future by award-winning photojournalist Jan-Joseph Stok and Palme D'Or nominated filmmaker Ben Crowe. Through photography and film we will explore this unrevealed chapter of Che Guevara's life. How do Che's ideals of liberty, equality, justice and self determination resonate with Congolese people today? On our journey we will document the issues faced by the people of Congo and hear about their dreams for a better future.

Some diggers are waiting with their minerals at the market of Ndjingala, DRC. The young man has the sign of the tiger on his arm, a symbol of Congo. Foto: Jan-Joseph Stok

Because of the nature of this project - experimental and personal - it makes it hard to finance in a conventional way. Journalistic assignments demand a certain way of working and certain kinds of images. This project will have its own independent character and needs to be free in its approach in order to be successful. We will be giving voice to people we meet on the road and in villages. We'll be off the beaten path embracing the randomness of encounters.

The money that we raise will go to funding:

  • Material for a PHOTOBOOK PROJECT AND EXHIBITION based on work in Tanzania and DR Congo. Jan-Joseph will focus on documenting the different aspects of Che's mission and the lives and stories of the people we encounter, capturing the feeling and essence of the places where Che Guevara and his men lived and fought. He will use different photographic techniques to express the journey - reportage, strong portraits and landscape photography (panorama/360degrees photography) - revealing the past and present and how the two are intertwined.
  • A series of SHORT EXPERIMENTAL DOCUMENTARY FILMS for multimedia, art gallery and international film festivals. This will be a moment for creative filmmaking and experimentation to find different filmic responses - aesthetic, political and ethical - to the journey and stories we uncover.
  • Over the course of the project, we will be working closely with Teun van der Heijden (www.heijdenskarwei.com ), Photobook Maker, who is also part of our team, and who will be involved throughout.

Gyves is one of the diggers from N'zibera. He is 18 years old, he is waiting in front of the hole to be able to start digging. Foto: Jan-Joseph Stok

What have we done so far? We've been to Cuba! We have already made a self-funded research trip to Havana to investigate the origins of the story of Che in Congo and to help plan the Congo journey. During that visit we met with the son of Che Guevara, Camillo Guevarra (Director of the Che Guevara study center) who gave his authorization to work on this subject. We also interviewed five veterans, including the commander of the rescue team, Manuel Alvarez Montoya and Victor Dreke, Che’s second in command throughout Congo. Victor Dreke gave us a book that was originally dedicated to the son of Patrice Lumumba, Guy-Patrice Lumbuba, to hand to him personally in Congo. We will honour this request!

Victor Mendiola Urguelles - one of the Congo mission veterans - in his battery shop. Foto: Jan-Joseph Stok

We were also able to gather photographs of the personal belongings of the Congo veterans and photos that they took themselves during the mission - artifacts that have never before been widely seen! These photos, interviews and video made by the team were edited by Ben into the video 'CHE IN CONGO - The beginning'.

What's the final destination of CHE IN CONGO? A beautifully crafted photobook, gallery and travelling exhibitions featuring the multimedia works, a set of magazine publications and film screenings at international film festivals. 

National Guards at a commemoration for revolutionary heroes in Havana. Foto: Jan-Joseph Stok

BACKGROUND TO THE STORY

In 1965, at the height of Cold War, Che Guevara left Cuba on a secret journey to Eastern Congo. His mission was to support the Congolese revolutionary insurgency against imperialist forces.

What became known as the Simba rebellion pitched a dozen Congolese politicians and commanders including latter day President Laurent Kabila against the Congolese army led by Joseph Mobutu, white mercenaries and CIA trained anti-Castro Cubans. With a few hundred Cuban and Congolese fighters, Che and his men fought for six months in the forests and hills of South Kivu and Katanga province. The mission was a disaster. encircled by enemy forces, Che and his men evaded capture in an ignoble escape across Lake Tanganyika. Just a few days later, Mobutu deposed the President of Congo in a coup d’etat and made himself ruler of the newly named Zaire: a tyrant of the people for the next thirty years. Two years later, Che was killed during a similar doomed mission in Bolivia. His ‘revolutionary heroism’ and sacrifice – both celebrated and despised in equal measure – laid the foundation for the global icon of revolution we know today.

A woman and her children near a coltan mine in South Kivu fear of militias. Foto: Jan-Joseph Stok

JAN-JOSEPH'S PERSONAL STATEMENT

For the last ten years I have worked almost every year in Congo. This project will allow me to express in more depth and with more intimacy many of the issues I have touched on with my journalistic assignments. Africa in general, has for a long time, been misrepresented. The image most of the people in the Western World have of Africa, and of Congo, is a very dramatic and stereotypical one: one of hunger, war and misery. Following in the footsteps of Che is a vehicle to tell the story of Congo in a different way. My aim is to let the encounter happen on the way, and to give the Congolese a voice to reflect on their own country in their own way. At the same time, the project can attract an audience fascinated by the icon of Che Guevara, to a country they may never have considered before. The project will raise questions about the condition of Congo now and over the years, and allow reflection on ways for a better future.

BEN'S PERSONAL STATEMENT

A creative collaboration like CHE IN CONGO may only come along once or twice for a filmmaker. When Jan-Joseph told me the story of Che in Congo one day whilst we were working in Goma, different fragments of my life came together.

I knew Che Guevara as pop icon cliché of teenage rebellion. And then I studied political science, development, worked in conflict zones and human rights. A more complex and fascinating picture emerged. Che’s revolutionary ideal of self-less dedication to a cause - freedom from oppression and the right to live with dignity – is inspirational. Truly, no one should grow fat off the poverty of others. But the abuses of communist/socialist regimes and realities of revolutionary violence are abhorrent. To liberate the world’s poor from the enslavement and oppression of capitalist imperialism, Che wanted to start a third world war. Nuclear annihilation was an acceptable risk if it could bring the USA to its knees. Hero? Dreamer? Crazy zealot? Perhaps all of them.

CHE IN CONGO is a moment of integration: to explore the past, present and future of this troubled region.

EXPERIENCE

The team behind CHE IN CONGO have worked in Congo and across Africa - independently and collaboratively - for many years as photojournalist and filmmaker for the international press and NGOs. Much of our work has a humanitarian focus and we are experienced working in conflict and post-conflict zones. Securing the right visas, permits, transportation, logistics, budgeting, working safely - and producing excellent photo and video - is the core of our work.

To get more information go to the website of the project www.cheincongo.com and follow our facebook page www.facebook.com/cheincongo 

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Perks

€10
Contribution of 10 Euros
  • 1 claimed
Special thank you with your name on our site and the materials we produce. Email updates about evolution of the project.
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€25
Contribution of 25 Euros
  • 1 claimed
Special Online preview of the photo gallery of the project and access to a special behind the scene. Special thank you with your name on our site and the materials we produce. Email updates about evolution of the project.
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€50
Contribution of 50 Euros
  • 5 claimed
Exclusive Online viewing of the Che in Congo films + Special Online preview of the photo gallery of the project. Special thank you with your name on our site and the materials we produce. Email updates about evolution of the project.
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€100
Contribution of 100 Euros
  • 9 claimed
  • 241 remaining
Our heartfelt thanks published on our site, a credit in the Photobook and short films, email updates on the project and access to the private gallery of the photos, a limited edition set of 10 photo postcards from the project, your personal digital download of the films, PLUS a limited edition CHE IN CONGO T-shirt made from Fair trade organic coton ( 250 available)
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€500
Contribution of 500 Euros.
  • 0 claimed
  • 30 remaining
Limited edition Photo Print (1/30) from the Che in Congo series.Professionally printed 50 cm x 70 cm.Exclusive Online viewing of the Che in Congo films + Special Online preview of the photo gallery of the project. Special thank you with your name on our site and the materials we produce. Email updates about evolution of the project.
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