The cliché has it that a picture is worth a thousand words. But is that true? Now in his thirties, Nicolas Wouters tries to find out what his grandparents’ photos do not reveal about their life as colonials in the former Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in the period 1946-1958.
The photos show only white people radiating satisfaction with their lives. There is no trace of the Black community. The 400 letters and family films that his grandmother and grandfather sent to their relatives in Belgium also reveal nothing about real life in the colony. Only once does the family’s Black domestic servant appear in the background of a film.
To find out more about what it was really like in Congo, Wouters interviews women who were former colonists. But that also yields nothing, and that is perhaps no coincidence: the conclusion of this film, narrated using photos, archive footage, and animation, is that silence and looking the other way were the essence of colonial life.