"Songs of the Walés"

In the equatorial forest of Congo (DRC), certain Batwas Pygmy women among Ekondas, first-time mothers, live in seclusion with their children in the midst of other women who are responsible for their well-being. They are called Walés, which means ‘nursing mothers’. During the time of their seclusion, they must create a performance of dances and songs for the big day: their liberation. For several years now, I have been translating the songs of the Walés into images, as closely as possible to the experience of these young mothers, actresses who are fully involved in my process, and thus attempt to pierce the mysteries of this tremendously symbolic initiatory rite.


PATRICK WILLOCQ is a French photographer who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a return trip to Congo in 2009 that convinced him to quit the job he had been holding down for twenty years in Asia and to give his life over to photography. Willocq’s work is characterised by imagination, the art of metamorphosing reality and a practice which aligns aesthetics with ethics with the subjects being an integral part of his creative process. His work has been nominated, a finalist or a winner of various international awards including the 2012 SFR Paris Photo, the 2014 Leica Oskar Barnack Award, the 2014 Rencontres d'Arles Discovery Award , the 2016 Sony World Photo Awards and the 2016 Prix Coup de Coeur HSBC for Photography.