Learning the Truth about Congo - An Interview with EDMUND TRUEMAN
COMIC BOOK YETI: Hello and welcome to the Yeti Cave, Edmund! Thank you for
stopping by to talk about Postcards From Congo: A Graphic History, which was released from Arsenal Pulp Press on 10/25. Feel free to grab a seat and
introduce yourself to us!
EDMUND TRUEMAN: I’m a comic artist and illustrator based in the west of Europe, and I try to bring together social and political themes in my work, as well as a good dose of light-hearted silliness.
CBY: With a history of self-publishing underground comics ranging in topics
from the squatting movement to the refugee crisis for over a decade, what led to you creating this long-form graphic non-fiction work?
ET: Basically, while talking to several African friends, I started to become aware of how little I knew about the events which had shaped their lives back home. I started to read a little about African history, and I became particularily interested in the story of Congo.
Here in the West, there is very little dialogue or education on what goes on inside of Africa, so I was surprised to see how much the story of the Congolese is intertwined with our own. I found the story so relevant that I wanted to share it with more people, and add something new to it by illustrating it. The result was Postcards from Congo,
which I think of as an illustrated encyclopedia of Congolese history.
CBY: We begin with a powerful Foreword from Didier Gondola, a Historian and
Professor of African History. It’s remarked that you are not only in tune with the
visual legacy of Congo, but also that this graphic novel is set apart from others
due to your ambition to cover as much ground as possible. Working as the Writer
& Artist, what did the creative process look like for Postcards From Congo: A
ET: I really enjoy the challenge of taking a complex topic and trying to explain it in a
concise and straight-forward way. With Postcards from Congo, I decided to tell the story
through a series of individual moments from history. Many of these moments don’t lead on
directly from one another, but when we see them all together we start to build a
general idea of how things went. Each moment has some relevance to the bigger
picture, although many of them focus on the everyday experiences of common people.
The creative process was very focused on reduction – I had to reduce 150 years of
history into as few events as possible.
"Well, I hope that people enjoy it and it inspires them to learn a little more about Congo, and the African continent in general. The world is changing and there always more opportunities for people around the world to connect with and learn about African culture. If we are serious about the fight against racism and inequality, then I think that now is a great time to start paying closer attention to one another."
CBY: Thank you so much for providing me with a copy to read, after diving into
all 184 pages…I have to agree with Gondola. It felt as if you were the historian in
this case! In the preface you mentioned basing this upon the deep research and
writing of other people. Can you give us a bit more about what went into
analyzing their work and creating a Graphic History from it?
ET: So the writing stage was essentially about reading as much as I could and then
trying to summarize the information in the simplest way possible. To create the
illustrations I had to draw events from decades ago with some degree of accuracy,
which meant collecting a lot of visual references. I was looking for details like what hats
people were wearing, how they were dancing, how the shopfronts were painted, and so
on. I collected hundreds of photos, but I also used written descriptions, paintings,
interviews and even the lyrics from pop songs. Luckily, Didier Gondola was also on
hand to check through my drawings and give me some feedback on their accuracy.
CBY: Page after page is filled with such in-depth research but one thing that
really stood out to me is how visually striking the art is! If I understand correctly,
you drew influence from late photographer Jean Depara and late artist Moké. What did the process look like when combining both into your own creation?
ET: Jean Depara’s photos are so candid - you can really see how people looked,
behaved, and moved when they were just being themselves. It’s really hard to find
something like that within the pages of a conventional history book, which tend to focus
more on events. I came to the paintings of Moké for the same reason, to look for visual
details, but in the end I was very inspired by his visual style. He painted a lot of crowd
scenes which have a great sense of humour and busyness, so I tried to incorporate a bit
of that Moké flavour into some of my own drawings.
"Each moment has some relevance to the bigger picture, although many of them focus on the everyday experiences of common people. The creative process was very focused on reduction – I had to reduce 150 years of history into as few events as possible."
CBY: This was an incredibly eye opening experience as well as a testament to
the Congolese people’s resilience and endurance, beginning with the Early
History leading up to the First Peaceful Transition in 2021. How does it feel to
have such a comprehensive guide for the public to read, one that shows such raw
ET: Well, I hope that people enjoy it and it inspires them to learn a little more about
Congo, and the African continent in general. The world is changing and there always
more opportunities for people around the world to connect with and learn about African
culture. If we are serious about the fight against racism and inequality, then I think that
now is a great time to start paying closer attention to one another.
CBY: Now that Postcards From Congo: A Graphic History drops has been released by Arsenal Pulp Press, what is next? Are there any upcoming projects you can talk about?
ET: I’d like to stay on the topic of Congolese history, but zoom in a little on a couple of
themes. It’s been great to make a general overview of the topic, but there are a few
ideas I want to explore more deeply, so I think that’s the next step now for me.
CBY: Where can our readers find you online? Feel free to list any online store we
can find your past works on as well!
ET: You can follow me on Instagram at @junk_comix, and from there you can find links
on where to order Postcards from Congo. I’m still selling copies of a smaller comic
called Dunkirk Jungle, which I produced in collaboration with two other artists while we
were volunteering in a refugee camp on the French-English border. All the profits
contribute to the ongoing aid project in the camp, so if anybody would like to support
that project and buy a copy then just send me a message on Instagram.
CBY: Thank you for stopping by the Yeti Cave and chatting with us today! We
can’t wait to see what else comes from you in the future, Edmund!
ET: Thanks very much, it's been a pleasure!