'When Harmony Went to Hell'
Congo Dialogues: Alice Seeley Harris and Sammy Baloji

16 January - 7 March 2014

Rivington Place

London, UK

Past exhibition

Autograph ABP presents a rarely seen archive dating from 1904, created by English missionary Alice Seeley Harris in the Congo Free State. These pioneering photographs publicly exposed the violent consequences of human rights abuses at the turn of the century, and are exhibited alongside newly commissioned work from acclaimed contemporary Congolese artist Sammy Baloji.

In the early 1900s, the missionary Alice Seeley Harris produced what was probably the first photographic campaign in support of human rights. She exposed the atrocities that underpinned King Leopold II’s regime in the Congo Free State, bringing to public attention the plight of the Congolese people under a violent and oppressive regime.

These photographs fundamentally shifted public awareness of the deep-rooted hypocrisy of King Leopold II’s promise of colonial benevolence, and caused an outcry at the time of their publication in Europe and America. 

Over 100 years later, these issues remain of primary concern to Congolese citizen and artist Sammy Baloji. Like Harris, Baloji uses photography as a medium to interrogate current political concerns with reference to the past. Acclaimed for his photomontage works that juxtapose desolate post-industrial landscapes with ethnographic archival imagery, Baloji explores the cultural and architectural ‘traces’ of a country forever haunted by the spectres of its colonial past; in particular, the southeastern Katanga province and its capital, the city of Lubumbashi.

In this new body of work-in-progress, commissioned by Autograph ABP, Baloji continues to investigate the colonial legacies and fractured histories that haunt contemporary Congolese society. Notions of African utopias, post-colonial disillusionment, and a quest for authenticity amidst ‘the ruins of modernity’ define Baloji’s multi-layered practice: the impact of Western imperialism, Maoist communism, urban segregation and colonial sanitation politics as well as the unending mineral exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources, and with it the tragedies and traumas of state-controlled violence and ongoing human rights abuses.

Congo Dialogues marks the 175th anniversary of Anti-Slavery International and the invention of photography. The first major solo showcase of Sammy Baloji’s work in the UK, this exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see both historical and contemporary works interrogating the Congo and its colonial legacies. The Alice Seeley Harris archive was last shown to the public 110 years ago.


The show implicitly probes the political value of contemporary art, given that most portrayals of geopolitical conflict are now detached from the social movements that once contextualized such engaged photographic practices

T.J. Demos, ​Artforum

Alice Harris' shocking photos revealed to the world the horrendous truth of slavery in the Congo and helped bring public pressure and international scrutiny to the situation faced by its people

Paul Donohoe, Anti-Slavery International

[Congo Dialogues is] ... a visual dialogue through photography showcasing Congo from different perspectives and times. Two exhibitions which merge together to tell a grime yet fascinating story of the country’s past and hopeful present


The kodak has been a sole calamity to us. The most powerful enemy indeed. In the early years we had no trouble in getting the press to “expose” the tales of mutilations as slanders, lies, inventions of busy-body American missionaries and exasperated foreigners…. Yes, all things went harmoniously and pleasantly in those good days…. Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible kodak – and all harmony went to hell! The only witness I couldn’t bribe.

Mark Twain, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, 1905. Twain was directly influenced by Harris' photographs

Instead of the charade of civilization that masked the Belgian's presence in the Congo, [Alice Seeley Harris'] photographs exposed the deep-rooted hypocrisy of so called colonial benevolence.

Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph ABP

Sammy Baloji lets us brutally remain in the reality. Through photography we illustrate history...This is a repossession of that past, in order to look forward.

Jeanne Mercier, African Phantom: Between Ruins and Modernity, Sammy Baloji

Celebration of the work of Alice Seeley Harris is long overdue. This remarkable woman went to the Congo Free State on a religious mission but found a new vocation in exposing the murderous oppression of the government and its affiliated concessionary companies.

Dean Pavlakis

Visitor Comments

The current Autograph ABP exhibition at Rivington Place is astounding. Incredible insight into past and present conditions in DRC. Go go go!

Charlotte Norman

Incredibly impressive. The tension between the beauty of the photography and the horror of the content was amazingly moving.

Not sure I've ever had a lunch break so packed with emotional punch. Phenomenally moving

It is amazing, I stayed almost an hour. I revisited each work (history and contemporary lesson for me, and beautiful art because of that) again and again.

Haunting and beautiful

Astounding - made me want to go and learn more about this


Keynote Lecture & Roundtable
Photography and Violence

Thursday, 6 February 6.30 - 8.30pm

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

Panel Discussion:
Politics of the Congo, Now and Then

Thursday, 13 February 2014 6:30 - 8pm

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

Campaign Strategies: Four Talks on Self-Organised Activism

Saturday 22 February, 1pm start

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

Film Screening & In Conversation
Sammy Baloji: Mémoire

Thursday, 27 February 2014 6.30pm

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

Curators’ Gallery Talk

Saturday, 1 March 2 - 3pm

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

Film Screening & Q+A
Sven Augustijnen: Spectres

Monday, 24 February 6 - 8.30pm

Rivington Place, London

Read more »

What's in the exhibition

Project Space 1 (Ground Floor)
New works by Sammy Baloji, commissioned by Autograph ABP.

Project Space 2 (First Floor)
The Harris Lantern Slide Collection, produced in 1904. This room will present prints, rare lantern slides, and ephemera.

Please note that this exhibition addresses human rights abuses. Some images depict violence and are unsuitable for children.

About Alice Seeley Harris & Sammy Baloji

Alice Seeley Harris
Harris was born in 1870 in Malmesbury, UK. With the aid of her husband Reverend John Harris, she photographed the atrocities committed in the Congo Free State by King Leopold II’s regime and agents. Harris’ photographs circulated widely in the press and reproduced as lantern slides illustrating lectures by the Congo Reform Association. This exposure resulted in international political pressure on King Leopold II, eventually forcing him to relinquish absolute rule over the Congo Free State in 1908. Harris was an active member of Anti-Slavery International. She died in 1970, aged 100.

Sammy Baloji
Baloji was born in 1978 in Lubumbashi, DRC. He uses photography, film, montage, and archives to explore his native country’s colonial past and political present. Baloji’s groundbreaking work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris; the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium; and the Tate Modern, London. In 2007, he was twice awarded at the Bamako Biennale; and in 2009, he received the prestigious Prince Claus Foundation award. In 2010, Baloji co-founded the non-profit collective Picha and the biennial Rencontres Picha to support the development of local artistic practices. He currently lives and works between Lubumbashi and Brussels.

Visiting information

Congo Dialogues will take place at
Rivington Place

0207 749 1240

Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday: 11am – 6pm
Thursday: 11am – 9pm
Saturday: 12 – 6pm
Closed Sundays, Mondays and Bank Holidays

Rivington Place is fully accessible. Disabled parking bays are available, please call in advance to reserve

Free admission

Shutterbug Cafe at Rivington Place sells coffee, drinks and crepes
A meeting room is also available to book

Spacious Dub commission

Autograph ABP commissioned singer Gretchen Cummings to respond to the Congo Dialogues exhibition. Spacious Dub with ensemble collaborators, Ramjac, Dr Das and Jonah Sharp is a musical and sung response to missionary Alice Seeley Harris.

Read more about the commission >

In partnership with

Anti Slavery International
Anti-Slavery International works at local, national and international levels to eliminate all forms of slavery around the world.

The Harris Lantern Slide Collection is owned by Anti-Slavery International, and currently managed by Autograph ABP. We have been working together since 2009 to share this important archive with a wider audience.

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool
The International Slavery Museum explores historical and contemporary aspects of slavery.

The museum will present a partnering exhibition in Liverpool, to coincide with Congo Dialogues at Rivington Place:

Exposure: Conflict in the Congo
24 January – September 2014
International Slavery Museum
Dock Traffic Office

Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront

L3 4AX

Part of our ongoing Congo research

Autograph ABP has been researching issues of human rights, photography and the DR Congo since 2009. Outcomes of this work include:

Sammy Baloji Commission
2010, DR Congo
Autograph ABP commissioned Baloji to document the site wehere Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Okito were executed and first buried

The Republic of the Congo newspaper
Published 2010
Featuring an essay by Sharon Slowinski, and texts by Mark Sealy and Paul Donohoe
Available as a free PDF download

Sammy Baloji: Mémoire
2 June - 4 July 2010
Exhibition at Dilston Grove, Lodon

Congo Reform Photography Archive Digitisation
2013 - ongoing
Autograph ABP is currently digitising the Harris Lantern Slide Collection

When Harmony Went to Hell
Congo Dialogues: Alice Seeley Harris and Sammy Baloji

Forthcoming exhibition
16 January - March 2014
Rivington Place, London

Alice Seeley Harris
Brutal Exposure: Conflict in the Congo
Forthcoming exhibtion
Opens 24 January
International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Curated by

Congo Dialogues was researched by Mark Sealy at Autograph ABP.

Curator: Mark Sealy
Associate Curator: Renée Mussai

Partnering exhibition in Liverpool

To coincide with Congo Dialogues at Rivington Place:

Alice Seeley Harris
Brutal Exposure: The Congo
Opens 24 January 2014
International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Press contact and images

Our Press Dropbox contains information and images for listings and reviews. 

Interviews, further images, and high res images are also available. Please contact Lois Olmstead at Autograph ABP

Phone +44 (0)20 7720 92200
Email lois [at] autograph-abp.co.uk

  • The site where Patrice Lumumba, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were executed and first buried. Photograph by Sammy Baloji, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 2010
  • Sammy Baloji, 2013
  • Alice Seeley Harris, Isekausu whose hand was chopped off by Ikombi, one of the rubber concession's sentries, Congo Free State, c. 1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP
  • Sammy Baloji, 2013
  • The Harris Lantern Slide Collection arrives at Autograph ABP from Anti-Slavery International
  • Alice Seeley Harris, Three head sentries of the ABIR with a prisoner, Congo Free State, c.1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP
  • Alice Seeley Harris, Bolomboloko. Lomboto shot in the wrist and hand by a rubber concession sentry and permanently disabled as a result. Congo Free State, c. 1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP
  • Exhibition poster for Congo Dialogues. Available at Rivington Place
  • Artforum review, May 2014