RYAN GOSLING

Ac­tor Ryan Gosling goes be­hind the cam­era to bring out a book on the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo,

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Ac­tor Ryan Gosling is best known for ilms as di­verse as “La La Land” and “First Man” but he re­cently moved be­hind the lens for a pas­sion pro­ject -- tak­ing pho­tos in the cri­sis-hit Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo.

The 38-year-old Gosling, who is Cana­dian, is no stranger to ad­vo­cacy in Africa -- for a decade, he’s been work­ing with the Enough Pro­ject, which aims to end mass atroc­i­ties in the con­ti­nent’s conlict hotspots.

On the DRC, he teamed up with the Enough Pro­ject’s found­ing di­rec­tor John Pren­der­gast and Con­golese ac­tivist Fidel Bailemba to draw at­ten­tion to the bru­tal coloni­sa­tion of the cen­tral African coun­try.

In “Congo Sto­ries: Bat­tling Five Cen­turies of Ex­ploita­tion and Greed,” the pair un­pack the tor­tu­ous his­tory of the min­eral-rich DRC and how its res­i­dents are look­ing to the fu­ture -- with pho­tos by Gosling.

“It was just this theme of an un­wa­ver­ing re­silience and an un­will­ing­ness to be bro­ken, and th­ese ex­pres­sions of hope,” the ac­tor said at a book event on Thurs­day at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in the US cap­i­tal.

“It is hope that is gen­er­ated from peo­ple like Fidel and Chou­chou,” the two-time Os­car nom­i­nee added, re­fer­ring to jour­nal­ist and rights ac­tivist Chou­chou Namegabe, who also con­trib­uted to the pro­ject.

Fol­low­ing a trip to north­ern Uganda in 2008, Gosling and Pren­der­gast de­cided to head to the eastern DRC in 2010, to travel along­side Bailemba.

“At the time, Ryan was just tak­ing pho­tos like he was some guy who’d never been to a place be­fore and wanted to doc­u­ment what he was see­ing,” Pren­der­gast said in an in­ter­view.

Af­ter mulling over a sec­ond trip years later, the pair de­cided in­stead to take Gosling’s pho­tos, Pren­der­gast’s re­search and Bailemba’s in­ter­views with Con­golese “up­standers” -- in other words, pri­mar­ily young cit­i­zens work­ing to­ward change -- to cre­ate the book.

“Congo Sto­ries” guides read­ers from pre-colo­nial days through Bel­gian rule to in­de­pen­dence in 1960, and the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila -whose suc­ces­sor will be cho­sen De­cem­ber 23 in what is al­ready prov­ing a tur­bu­lent elec­tion.

It de­tails ev­ery­thing from the sale of slaves to work on US plan­ta­tions to the vast ex­ploita­tion of the gut­ting of the coun­try’s re­mark­able ar­ray of re­sources.

From rub­ber and ivory at the turn of the 20th cen­tury, to ura­nium to de­velop the atomic bomb, and now the “three Ts” -- tin, tan­ta­lum and tung­sten -- vi­tal to mo­bile phones and lap­tops or cobalt, which is key to elec­tric car bat­ter­ies.

Conlict per­sists no­tably in North Kivu prov­ince on DRC’s eastern bor­der, which has been sub­ject to waves of blood­shed in­volv­ing mili­tias, rebel groups and gov­ern­ment forces for more than 20 years.

The coun­try, also rav­aged by sex­ual vi­o­lence, has not known a peace­ful tran­si­tion of power since gain­ing in­de­pen­dence.

For Pren­der­gast, the book not only “calls for sol­i­dar­ity” with the DRC, but asks read­ers “to chal­lenge... those eco­nomic ar­range­ments that have led to this ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion of hu­man suf­fer­ing.”

Bailemba said he would like to see Amer­i­cans place more pres­sure on their law­mak­ers to act.

“They need to pres­sure the ad­min­is­tra­tion, their Congress, their Se­nate to hold Con­golese cor­rupt lead­ers to ac­count by keep­ing them... on sanc­tions lists, freez­ing their as­sets, ban­ning their trav­els into this coun­try,” he said.

Bailemba also called upon US stu­dents to pres­sure their uni­ver­si­ties -- big buy­ers of min­eral-packed elec­tron­ics -- to source conlict-free prod­ucts.

“I’m not ask­ing you (for) your dol­lars. Just be de­mand­ing that your com­pa­nies stop (what) they have been do­ing back in Africa, and par­tic­u­larly in Congo,” he added.

The ‘Congo Sto­ries’ book by John Pren­der­gast and Fidel Bafilemba with pic­tures by Ryan Gosling in Wash­ing­ton DC.

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