Black.Light Project


ermisch | Büro für Gestaltung
Christoph Ermisch
Sedanstraße 55
30161 Hannover


All images and texts are copyrighted and are owned by Wolf Böwig, Pedro Rosa Mendes and participating artists. Under no circumstance shall these images and texts be used, copied, displayed or pulled from this site without expressed consent of the authors.


Black.Light Project was chosen by the KOLGA AWARD international jury members among the best projects of the year 2014.

Tbilisi, Georgia
May 2014


Two reportages of Black.Light Project were exhibited at the KOLGA AWARD exhibition in Tbilisi, Georgia and are printed in the annual photo catalogue.
screenshots from the catalogue



Preview animation „Über Gewalt berichten“

release of Polar magazine issue no.16—Heavy


Black.Light Project


the function of „heavy“ topics in society and art
with Jörg Buttgereit (author), Julie Miess (cultural scientist, musician), Anna-Catharina Gebbers (curator), and Peter Siller and Arndt Pollmann, editors of Polar magazine


May 24th, 2014



“Violence and human rights – approaches through history and art”

Black.Light Project was featured during the international conference
“Violence and human rights“ held December 9th-11th, 2013, in Hannover. The event was organized by the Foundation of Memorial Sites of Lower Saxony


THE RIGHT ON HISTORY – terror and reflection in Russia and Europe
Dr. Irina Scherbakova (lecture)


Wolf Böwig (lecture and presentation)
Henning Chadde (performance)



The Theater of War: A brief overview of illustrated conflict reportage since the advent of photography

History of American Illustration

Jennifer Stoots
16th April 2013



Mom, I wouldn’t wish war on my worst enemy.

—John, U.S. Marine, twice deployed to Iraq


The invention of the printing press in 1448 revolutionized the way information could be reproduced and, subsequently, circulated. The techniques of engraving, for illustration, were originally developed and dominated by carpenters (woodcuts) and goldsmiths (intaglio) in the early part of the 15th century, until painters began to learn the craft before the century’s close. It made practical sense that engraving would be the primary medium used when the press began to incorporate illustrations into periodicals and mass media.


News of war has consistently held popular interest, as it directly impacts personal lives, economics, politics and national pride. Until the invention of the electric telegraph, reports from the front lines could take days or weeks to reach the home front. As well, any illustration that accompanied a news report was often rendered based on oral or written accounts of the event. Photography, as of the 1860s, would providing a literal visual document of the battlefield and provide a template for the engraver. When photomechanical reproduction became practical in the 1880s, engravers all but disappeared from newspapers and magazines by the early 20th century, as photographs would become the primary graphic of war.


>> more

„Ein Comic zur Bewältigung der Schreckenstaten von Charles Taylor“

Corsogespräch mit Wolf Böwig vom 12. Juli 2012
Ende Mai wurde der ehemalige Präsident Liberias Charles Taylor von einem UN-Sondertribunal in Den Haag wegen seiner Verbrechen in Libera zu 50 Jahren Haft verurteilt. Die Schreckenstaten hat der Fotojournalist Wolf Böwig miterlebt. Seit 1988 veröffentlicht er mit dem Schwerpunkt Langzeitdokumentation in Kriegs- und Krisengebieten weltweit.
Er ist auch Gründungsmitglied von Reporter ohne Grenzen, Berlin. Über die Gräueltaten Taylors hat er jetzt ein Projekt angestoßen, das mit grafischer Reportage richtig beschrieben ist. Mehr dazu erzählt Wolf Böwig gleich im Corsogespräch.
Black steht für die Dunkelheit, Light für das Licht. Das weitgehend im Dunkeln gebliebene Leid, das der liberianische Warlord und spätere Präsident Charles Taylor mit seinen Gräueltaten über Westafrika gebracht hat, will das Comicprojekt Black. Light ins Licht zerren. Mit einem Mix aus Fotografie, Zeichnungen und Reportagetexten. Zehn prominente Illustratoren aus verschiedenen Ländern sind beteiligt, angestoßen haben es der deutsche Kriegsfotograf Wolf Böwig und der portugiesische Reporter Pedro Rosa Mendes. Beide wurden für ihre Berichte aus der Region schon mehrfach ausgezeichnet, auch für den Pulitzer Preis nominiert, und beide haben diese Arbeiten aus den Jahren 1998 bis 2007 weltweit in Magazinen veröffentlicht. 15 Geschichten aus 4 Ländern entstehen da – über Kindersoldaten, über Massaker an Dorfgemeinschaften, über Flüchtlingsschicksale in Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Liberia und Elfenbeinküste


>> more

3sat Kulturzeit

german television

26th June 2012


“ … Adorno meinte über Auschwitz könne man keine Gedichte schreiben, Leon Wieseltier, der Kulturredakteur der jüdischen Zeitschrift The New Republic sagte, seine Vorstellungswelt höre an den Türen zu den Gaskammern auf. Wenn wir uns schlimmstes Grauen nicht vorstellen sollen, es uns verschlossen bleiben muss aus Pietät mit den Opfern, dann wird es vergesssen.


Wie überlebt man ein Massaker, bei dem alle brutal ermordet werden? Die Mutter, der Vater, Bruder, Schwester und Nachbarn. 1200, alle tot. Nur einem lassen sie leben. …


Das Massaker fand statt in Sierra Leone, in Westafrika. Angezettelt von bis heute Unbekannten. Zeitgleich wütete der verurteilte Massenmörder und Warlord Charles Taylor in der Region. Manche konnten solche Traumata überleben, vielleicht weil es doch Menschen gibt, die versuchen über das Schreckliche Gedichte zu schreiben. Oder im Falle des Projektes Black.Light Comics zu machen. … „


Tina Mendelsohn

Workshop with illustrators and eyewitnesses

Five-day-workshop at the Comic Salon Erlangen 2012 with intiators, illustrators and eyewitnesses

Under the label “The Charles Taylor Wars,” Wolf Böwig (initiator, photo), Pedro Rosa Mendes (text), Christoph Ermisch (initiator, graphics, animation) and an international lineup of top illustrators and artists created a crossover version of the reports, merging photography, illustration and written word. Through the collaboration of photographer, artists, author, graphic artis as well as eyewitnesses, Black.Light Project creates the fragments for 15 different stories during a workshop at the Comic Salon in Erlangen 2012







The Black.Light Project does not attempt to lighten the dark. The legacy of Charles Taylor will reverberate for generations with such complex layering and scaffolding that it is impossible to quantify. This book and exhibition do not quarantine one aspect of this multi-nation echoing. Black.Light acknowledges the scope of dimension that pain, loss, survival, and hope encompass by exploring it all in a braid of words, photographs, and illustration. And while the creative mediums of expression differ, the voice does not. It is one of compassion and coalescing anger.


Media tends to move on to the most current of current events, and the world’s eyes follow. But for those afflicted by the ensuing post-Taylor wars and deaths, the return to normalcy, to daily life of peace and ease, to moving past is far, far from over, and the stories that inhabit their hours of waking and dreams of sleeping need to be retold–out of respect for those living in the aftermath, and as a reminder to all the rest of us that this extreme swing of the pendulum is a component of humanity, as well. Collectively we share a planet and we witness. The counterbalance of terror is acknowledgement, and from there the first tendril of light can break into a day. And the telling and listening to these stories is the only beacon, the only way to some kind of forward.


A book is held in the hands. And short of clasping hands with another, it is one of the most powerful ways to hold a story. The manuscript, the photographs, the illustrations do not necessarily explain or eulogize. They do combine as languages of the visual, literary, and aesthetic to chorus against silence, against forgetting, casting a rope to faith in humanity, in memory, in consciousness, to faith in what’s left.


by Kirsten Rian

„Wer im Schatten bleibt, der stirbt“

by Andreas Platthaus

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
14th January 2012








Death in the Shadows

by Andreas Platthaus


At the beginning of 2011, everything appeared to be going well, both with the project and the financing. Things were progressing quickly, and, upon first glance, “Black.Light” looked even better than one could have expected a year ago. But now there’s money trouble, even though 10 leading illustrators are currently working on “Black.Light.” It’s so typical: Initially, leading artists and journalists are quick to show an interest for the desperation in the world’s nether regions. They develop a concept to bring together not only the most disparate forms of storytelling, but also people from north and south, from wealth and poverty, from light and shadow. Then, out of nowhere, the genesis of something spectacular suddenly draws the focus of attention and the financial means to something much more appealing, because we prefer to document beauty instead of ugliness, to show that which puts us in a good light instead of what our shadows are. Now, there is no more interest in “Black.Light” because that something spectacular is last year’s Arab Spring. But what does it have to do with Black.Light?


First, one has to ask: What is Black.Light? Simply posing the question speaks volumes about the problems of the project. Normally, one would think a cross-border and cross-discipline concept for presenting human tragedy through a combination of artistic and documentary styles would stir interest and attract support. But during the time in which the tragedy played out – 1989 to 2007 – it was given short shrift outside of Africa. Fighting in the successor states of Yugoslavia, the Middle East conflict and two Iraq wars were more than just competition for publishing space: They made the West blind to the horrors in regions that are merely on the periphery of its spheres of interest. So much is true for areas like West Africa. From 1989 to 2007, Charles Taylor defined life in that part of the world. The Liberian warlord carried the power struggle for his homeland to neighboring states before actually becoming president of Liberia following the 1997 civil war. Once in office, he fomented a second civil war and further international conflicts. International pressure forced his resignation in 2003, he was extradited from his exile in Nigeria in 2006, and in 2007 he found himself charged with war crimes in Sierra Leone by a U.N. Special Court in The Hague. The trial against the man who once set West Africa aflame in still underway. Black.Light tells the story of the effects of Taylor’s actions.


With interest in these events having been so little, nearly everything Black.Light portrays is new to us. It reveals a part of the world irradiated by a black light, one only illuminating individual details in a bizarre way. And there was always death in the shadows. During these times, German photographer Wolf Böwig and Portuguese reporter Pedro Rosa Mendes travelled repeatedly to the four West African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone, GuineaBissau and Ivory Coast. They returned with award-winning reports which were published around the world. Böwig and Mendes were even nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. As the photographer put it, “Pedro writes what I see, and I seem to photograph what interests him.” But that wasn’t enough for them. Why not try to explain things so many people don’t want to know in a manner that attracts more interest and reaches the people of Africa? A few years ago, when Mendes was a juror for Lettre International’s Ulysses Award, he was looking over submitted work and asked offhandedly, “Why aren’t there any illustrated reports on the table?” The question remained unanswered, but it provided a challenge, one that also inspired Böwig.


The two men sought out others to help raise the flag, and in Böwig’s hometown of Hanover they found graphic designer Henning Ahlers and designer Christoph Ermisch. Together, the four of them developed the concept behind Black.Light: Mendes and Böwig’s reports were provided to illustrators who drew stories based on their bedrock. To call the results “comics” is not enough: the style allows for illustrations placed alongside Mendes‘ prose and Böwig’s photographs. 


It is a hybrid style, one that until now was only known in France. From 2003 to 2006, comic artist Emmanuelle Guibert and colorist Frédéric Lemercier created three volumes based on a trip taken by French photojournalist Didier Lefèvre, who travelled with the charity Doctors Without Borders to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan in 1986 and documented the journey with numerous photos. The trilogy, called “The Photographer” (First Second, 2009), was also much more than a comic book. The series combines the respective strengths of written and photographed memories with those interpreted and illustrated by the hand of another. Photographs run alongside comic panels enriched with descriptions and speech bubbles – and in each case, these testimonials compliment what is missing from the other forms of documentation.


This is exactly what Black.Light aspires to, except instead of having merely one illustrator produce graphic interpretations from a report of word and pictures, there are many. Through this method, the uniform “signature” of Mendes’s stories and Böwig’s black-and-white photographs is supplemented by the work of other artists. However, this is not only an observation from the outside. A constant component of Black.Light’s working principle is the role of public workshops where, more than anything, leading West African newspapers should also be involved. (as well as those people whose stories Mendes and Böwig tell with their reports). Thus, the illustrators can envision their own points of view and their explanations of the events.



Dialogue – schema ( 


This model orients itself on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has become a proven method throughout the African continent for coming to terms with political crimes – especially in Sierra Leone. The results of these workshops are to not only form the foundation of the book, but also to travel the world as an exhibition, above all, to West Africa. One workshop is being conceived for Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, together with an open-air presentation of the illustrated stories. This will increase the intensity of the cardinal question: How well does the predominately oral storytelling tradition of this region blend with the Western style, which fixates on words or pictures? And what about the problem of illiteracy? The oft-touted universal accessibility of picture stories will need to prove itself.


Following through with such a plan requires money. In the beginning, this did not appear to be a problem. “Various foundations made wholehearted promises to us, none of which were kept by any of the institutions,” Ahlers recalls. With the onset of democratic movements in North Africa, the region south of the Sahara once again became what Black.Light is fighting against: A blind spot in public perception. Western institutions quickly targeted their efforts at states with democratic movements. There wasn’t a festival which didn’t hastily integrate art and artists from the Maghreb, and there wasn’t a foundation that didn’t get wind of how effective their engagement would be for public relations. Black Africa? It would have to wait, yet again.


Of course, Böwig and Ahlers, the protagonists behind Black.Light, couldn’t have foreseen the outbreak of the so-called “Arabellion” when they presented their proposal at the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair. In tow, they carried the first “dummy,” an initial layout, to show how they wanted to portray the wars in West Africa with a combination of text, photographs and illustrations. A lot of effort went into this preparation, as did a considerable amount of money.


Things ratcheted up a year later when Böwig and Ahlers met with Emmerich at his Hanover office to view the progress. The men see themselves indebted to the three illustrators who have been working on Black.Light just so the initiators have something to present. Artists who have been contacted about the project have shown a strong willingness to participate. Ten have already committed, including Paris-based comic legend Lorenzo Mattotti and the famous American superhero illustrators George Pratt and Greg Ruth. Nic Klein, one of the few Germans to establish himself in the American comic book business, and Cambodian-born French artists Séra and Benjamin Flaó will also be involved. Earlier this year, Italian illustrator Stefan Ricci, one of the most accomplished and unorthodox contemporary graphic storytellers, accepted an invitation.


None of these artists, all of whom are doing well professionally, expect to be paid standard rates for Black.Light. But they shouldn’t have to work for free, either. “If we don’t find any sponsors, we will pay three of the illustrators,” Böwig says. On the other hand, things are looking up in at least one aspect: The Berlin-based Avant Verlag, a small but well-respected comic book publisher, has agreed to add the book to its program. And the first workshop is scheduled for the beginning of June in Erlangen, Germany, as a prelude to the International Comic Salon (June 7 to 10), which will feature a presentation of the Black.Light project. Things are gearing up, even without any financial security.


Various African guests are expected at the Erlangen workshop, where Böwig and Mendes will sound the starting gun for Black.Light. The project is no longer a simulation; illustrators have two months to finish their stories, and the results will be presented as an exhibition in October in Hanover. Ahlers has additional expectations. “The illustrators are to travel, not only to Erlangen, but also into the unknown.”


Visitors will definitely have something to see at the Comic Salon, with three test stories from the projected pool of 15 to 18 reports to be illustrated already complete. This is why Ermisch has cleared the long work table in his office. A strip on the wall holds up lengthy columns of printouts fastened together, enabling him to scrutinize the arrangement of image sequences. Illustrators won’t have the last word about how the laid-out stories in the extra-wide book format will appear. Ermisch takes the delivered illustrations as raw material for the layout. He cuts, enlarges details and occasionally arranges them with photos. The result will look more different than any of the illustrators might dare to imagine. “Everyone has to be ready to expose themselves,” according to Böwig. This is part of the allure.


Morie - here I found my father

The Photo – by Wolf Böwig



The drawing – by Danijel Zezelj 



The final composition – by Christoph Ermisch 


Böwig learned this when he won Danijel Zezelj for the project in New York in 2010. Zezelj, who was born in Zagreb, works for a number of American comic book publishers. As a painter, he has had an exhibition on show at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. To make the concept plausible, Böwig took individual images from one of Zezelj’s “Captain America” comics and combined them out of their context with Mendes’s words. After the delivery of this somewhat audacious demonstration, an enthusiastic ?e?elj called a mere two hours later to commit to the project. In the end, it was the liberal use of his images which convinced the artist. He disappeared for 10 days to immediately start converting one of the reports into pictures.



Wolf Böwig – Pedro Rosa Mendes – Danijel Zezelj 


Another person inspired to begin work immediately was Belgian-born illustrator Thierry van Hasselt, one of the most important proponents of avant-garde illustrated stories in the French-speaking world and co-founder of Frémok Publishing. He selected one of Mendes’s more unconventional reports: An allegory about Charles Taylor. Entitled “Black Sun”, it takes place in Ivory Coast and tells about the arrival of a nameless warlord at an airstrip in a remote province from which a convoy of vehicles embarks for a distant destination, always under the cover of night as accomplices cut the electrical service to each town the convoy passes through along the way.


Van Hasselt is the perfect choice to illustrate this “bulimic celestial body” – Mendes’s description of a warlord who creates only darkness around him. Wild, thick brushstrokes cross double pages, which unfold to a width of nearly three-quarters of a meter. The extreme horizontality supports the representation of the night convoy on its travels. Ermisch rearranged the motifs, selected excerpts where applicable and determined the typography and placement of text; eleven sentences suffice to provide the required information for the expressive series of pictures. Because the report is fictitious, photos are not used in the adaptation.



Thierry van Hasselt – Pedro Rosa Mendes  


Things are completely different for Zezelj’s selection, the story of “Morie, Prince of the Dead.” For this piece, Ermisch not only used a number of long text passages from Mendes’s fundamental reportage, he also combined the illustrations with several of Böwig’s photographs. In 2003, the Portuguese reporter and the German photographer visited the town of Bendu Malen in Sierra Leone, the site of a 1977 massacre of villagers at the hands of attackers who have yet to be identified. Morie, who was five at the time, remains as the only surviving eyewitness. When Mendes found him six years later under the care of an uncle in the city of Pujehan, the boy remembered why the killers spared his life. “They showed me the dead people and made me the village chief, but they threatened to kill me if I ever crossed their paths again.”


Zezelj opted for a scraggy, black-and-white optical theme. Ermisch reduced the color saturation until the black areas appeared to be bleached out. Mendes’s extensive report was reduced even more drastically for the layout. Individual images shot by Böwig compliment what ?e?elj omitted from the sequences of austerely composed illustrations: The skulls from the mass graves and Morie’s cheerless eyes.


The third completed story was drawn by David von Bassewitz. When the German illustrator saw how his first drafts were dealt with, he started again from scratch. For “Peanut Butter,” who in 2004 was the last mercenary leader loyal to the deposed Taylor, von Bassewitz penned a confused web of lines from which the protagonists come undone. He also integrated a sequence of images resembling children’s scribbles. This sequence focuses on one of the worst aspects of the story, which is clarified by the book. The conclusion of the graphic illustrations is followed by one of Böwig’s photos. At first glance, it looks like a group of laughing youths. Then one notices the assault rifles in their hands.



David von Bassewitz  – Pedro Rosa Mendes



Wolf Böwig


As a story, “Peanut Butter” emphasizes the exemplary combination of the narrative elements in Black.Light. This project is attempting something new and remains in flux. Instead of a book, bound pamphlets may be produced as inserts for a newspaper so they might be distributed among the people. There is one thing the four initiators know for sure: Whatever Black.Light becomes, it cannot remain a solitaire – a gemstone in a lone setting – because the project is all about moving death into the light.

Concept Black.Light Project


” … the conflicts of 3 nations, deeply intertwined, fueled by rogue presidents, half a dozen fighting parties, mercenaries, bands of rebels, gangs and tribal militias – many still teenagers and kids, dazed by drugs they roam through the woods, plundering, torching and murdering … ” 
Bartholomaeus Grill, DIE ZEIT, 31/2001

During the civil war between 1996 and 2003, Charles Taylor’s ‘warlord system’ brought suffering beyond human reckoning to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast, with hundreds of thousands killed in massacres and millions of refugees and displaced. For ten years Portuguese journalist Pedro Rosa Mendes and German photographer Wolf Böwig traveled the region to document these West African wars. Their work has been recognized and published in newspapers and publications around the world, leading to a Pulitzer nomination in 2007. The resulting reportages are often snapshots of incomprehensible horror from all fronts of these wars, while at the same time a sensitive approach to the plight of traumatized victims and perpetrators alike. During their many years of collaboration, Mendes and Böwig kept asking themselves the same question over and over again: How to present the incomprehensible, the unspeakable, the unimaginable through word and image. Is it even possible to document the breakdown of what we consider human at the same restore some of the victims dignity? under the label “The Charles Taylor Wars”, an international lineup of illustrators and artists create a crossover version of the reports, merging illustration, photography and written word. Through the collaboration of artists, photographer, author as well as local eyewitnesses, Black.Light Project creates the fragments for 15 different stories in a series of workshops. The work will be presented in galleries and public venues on three continents, Europe, Africa and the United States and later on published in a book.


Black.Light Project aims at creating synergies and a transcontinental dialogue that goes far beyond of what traditional war correspondence can achieve. Photography, journalistic reports, graphics and popular comicbook style merge into one homogeneous non-linear storytelling, creating a new publishing medium of its own.

Wolf Böwig


was born in Hannover, Germany in 1964. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the TFH and the FU both at Berlin. In 1988, he became a war photographer.


His reports are published in du, Expresso, Facts, Guardian, Internationale, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatic, Lettre International, Liberation, LFI, NY Times, NZZ, mare, Publica, Stern, taz, The Independent, and Visao.


He reported from conflicts in Afghanistan, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, DRC, Ethiopia, France, Guinea Bissau, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Zambia.



Christoph Ermisch

layout, design, website

was born in Varel, Germany in 1965. He studied Industrial Design at Fachhochschule Hannover and Brunel University of London. He is a member of the design group METAmoderne. Since 1998 he has worked as a communication designer at ermisch I Büro für Gestaltung based in Hannover.


He is working – from conception to realization – on all facets of the Blacklight Project, the exhibitions, corporate identity, multimedia, and internet presence.



Pedro Rosa Mendes


was born in Cernache do Bonjadrin, Portugal in 1968. After his jurisprudence studies, he worked as a journalist, mainly for the daily Público, the Portuguese partner in the Worldmedia syndicate of newspapers, and a reference newspaper in Lisbon.


He reported from conflicts in (in alphabetic order) Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Indonesia, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sâo Tomé e Principe, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Kirsten Rian

coordination, USA & Africa

was born in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1967, and is the author of Kalashnikov in the Sun (Pika Press), an anthology of Sierra Leonean poetry.


She also co-authored the anthology, Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass (Urban Adventure Press). Her writing has appeared in numerous photography monographs, newspapers, magazines, and international literary journals. An independent photography curator and book editor for 20 years, she has coordinated more than 375 exhibitions, and 75 books and catalogues.



Philipp Schaper

public relations & exhibition

was born in Hannover, Germany in 1980. He studied History and Political Science at Leibniz University of Hannover and had an emphasis at interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence. Schaper is working as a reporter at the local daily newspaper Neue Presse in Hannover.

David von Bassewitz


was born in Giessen, Germany in 1975. He studied Cinematography at Erlangen University and Illustration at the University of Applied Sciences in Wuerzburg, Germany. His drawings are published in DER SPIEGEL, Die Zeit, stern, Le Nouvel Observateur, The New Scientist, BBC History Magazine, Sciences et Avenir, Jung von Matt, Grabarz&Partner, SidLee Montreal, Birkhaeuser Verlag, HoerBild Verlag, Luerzer´s Archive: The world´s 200 best illustrators, Die Automate-Hoerbild Verlag, Licht für Städte-Birkhaeuser Verlag, ADC Sushi-Magazin, Freistil, 3×3 Magazine, and Taschen: Illustration Now. He was awarded with the ADC Auszeichnungen, Golden Award of Montreux, Silver Lion of Cannes, and Le Grand Prix de la Bande Dessinée Européenne.


>> David von Bassewitz

Benjamin Flaó


was born in Nantes, France in 1975. When he was 14 years old, Flaó left state school to enroll at the École d’arts Graphiques de Saint-Luc in Tournei, near the Belgian capital of Brussels. Two years later he joined the École de Graphisme Publicitaire in his home town of Nantes. In 1994 he went to Lyon in order to specialize in comics, cartoons and illustrations at the famous École Emile Cohl. Under the pseudonym Hekel & Jekel Flaó led jointly by YanNick Chambon varied illustrational works such as murals, caricatures and graffitis. In 2003 Flaó won with his travel diary about the Mammuthus Expedition of Siberia the Travel-Book-Price of the Biennial Lonely Planet in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. Since 1998, Flaó undertook several motorcycle travels through Africa, especially Burkina Faso and Eritrea, which he documented through drawings.


>> Benjamin Flao

Dieter Jüdt


was born in Feuchtwangen, Germany in 1963. He studied Illustration and Graphic Design at the Trier University of Applied Sciences. Nowadays he is primarily known for his regularly illustration work for German newspapers and magazines like Süddeutsche Zeitung, TAZ and mare. He has released four graphic novels – most recently „Das große Rauschen“ – and one children book. His comic-work has been nominated twice for the award of the „Best German Graphic Novel.” He’s a member of the international artist group Poste Aérienne and editior of „45 – A Single Cover Album.”



Thierry Van Hasselt


was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1969. Van Hasselt teaches the subject Comics at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts St-Luc in Brussels, where he also studied. His main focus is graphic-specific literature. Together with Vincent Fortemps he founded the Belgian comic book publisher Fréon, which merged in 2002 with the French publishing house Amok to Frémok. For his first album, Gloria Lopez in Angoulême, he was awarded the Prix Etranger Alph’Art. In 2009 he was one of the co-authors of the book Game of Catch at Vielsam which Frémok published in cooperation with handicapped artists of the ECC Hessen. Van Hasselt cooperates for his work extensively with the choreographer Karine Pontier or the writer Mylène Lauzon.


>> Thierry van Hasselt

George Pratt


was born in Beaumont, United States in 1960. He studied at the Pratt Institute in New York, and since has worked as an illustrator for various art and comic books, including Batman, Sandman, magazines, and exhibitions. His most successful work was his interpretation of the Enemy-Ace stories from DC-Comics. His graphic novel Enemy Ace: War Idyll, published in 1989, was highly decorated with numerous industry awards. He illustrated for Marvel Comics the series Wolverine: Netsuke for which he was awarded the Eisner Award at Comic-Con International in 2003.


>> George Pratt

Mikkel Sommer


Was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1987. He briefly studied animation and later design, but chose to continue his studies on his own and started freelancing 2009. He has done illustrations for various magazines, bands and books, and his comics have been published in the UK, Denmark and soon in France and Germany as well. He lives in Berlin with his wife and daughter.

>> Mikkel Sommer

Danijel Žeželj


was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1966. Žeželj studied classical painting, sculpting and printing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. His comics and illustrations have been published by DC Comics/Vertigo, Marvel Comics, The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s Magazine, San Francisco Guardian, Editori del Grifo, Edizioni Charta and others. In 2001 in Zagreb, he founded the publishing house and graphic workshop Petikat. Four years later he became the first comic book artist ever to have a solo exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been published and exhibited in Croatia, Slovenia, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and the USA.


>> Danijel Žeželj

Synopsis „reporting violence“


When hatred whorls across a continent, it envelops people, daily life, it cuts off limbs, flattens villages, burns down buildings, and pushes hard against hope, belief. It is difficult to imagine the degree to which the world can turn upside down, and most of the time those of us not amidst or recovering from such destruction, don’t. We should. Not because it’s pleasant. Not because it’s easy or righteous. But because it’s the truth.


Between 1998 and 2007 writer Pedro Rosa Mendes and photographer Wolf Böwig reported on the West African wars. Their work was published in leading magazines worldwide and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. In an innovative melding of mediums, they teamed up with 15 of the world’s most celebrated graphic storytellers to create a visually-arresting and powerful film that shares stories of daily life and survival during the wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Ivory Coast. The Black.Light Project film does not attempt to lighten the dark. The legacy of Charles Taylor will reverberate for generations with such complex layering and scaffolding that it is impossible to quantify.


The film not quarantine one aspect of this multi-nation echoing. Black.Light acknowledges the scope of dimension that pain, loss, survival, and hope encompass by exploring it all in a braid of words, photographs, and illustration powerfully resonating together in the film. In addition to Böwig and Mendes, the collaborating visual artists include an internationally recognized and celebrated list of illustrators and creators with a presence in the legacy of the comic book and graphic storytelling fields, including artists from DC and Marvel comics.


Media tends to move on to the most current of current events, and the world’s eyes follow. But for those afflicted by the ensuing post-Taylor wars and deaths, the return to normalcy, to daily life of peace and ease, to moving past is far, far from over, and the stories that inhabit their hours of waking and dreams of sleeping need to be retold–out of respect for those living in the aftermath, and as a reminder to all the rest of us that this extreme swing of the pendulum is a component of humanity, as well. Collectively we share a planet and we witness. The counterbalance of terror is acknowledgement, and from there the first tendril of light can break into a day. And the telling and listening to these stories is the only beacon, the only way to some kind of forward.


Details anchor reality. A boy’s name, Morie. The specific that he and only he survived a village massacre, 1,200 dead. He remembers that also the dogs, goats, and chickens are dead, as well. A man describes learning how to drink water like a dog after his arms were cut off, a specific visual analogy, we can picture this. We weren’t there, but we can picture it. And that bridge, as abstract, as intangible as it is, means something. A film impacts the mind and the heart. And short of clasping hands with another, it is one of the most powerful ways to tell a story. The Black.Light Project does not necessarily explain or eulogize. In the combination of languages of the visual, literary, and aesthetic it choruses against silence, against forgetting, casting a rope to faith in humanity, in memory, in consciousness, to faith in what’s left.


Kirsten Rian

Synopsis „Über Gewalt berichten“


Srebreniza, Ruanda, Monrovia … in der schwarzen Nacht eines Jahrhunderts der Völkermorde, wie Susan Sonntag unsere Zeit genannt hat, berichten Journalisten von Krieg und Gewalt. Pedro Rosa Mendes (Text) und Wolf Böwig (Foto), haben gemeinsam an  den Schauplätzen der westafrikanischen Bürgerkriege des Charles Taylor als Reporter gearbeitet.  Verdammt zur passiven Zeugenschaft, drängen sich ihnen elementare Fragen auf: Wo liegen die Grenzen des Verstehens? Wie von Krieg und Gewalt berichten ohne abzustumpfen? Wie angesichts alptraumartiger Massaker ein Mensch bleiben?


Gewalt kennt sie nicht, doch das Reden über sie sehr wohl: Grenzen. Von diesem ungleichen Verhältnis handelt „Über Gewalt berichten“. Wie nähern wir uns maßlosen Brutalitäten, die sich unserer Erfahrung entziehen und zugleich unausweichlicher Bestandteil unserer globalisierten Welt sind? Konventionen des Zeigens und Sprechens machen Gewalt im medialen Alltagsgeschäft erträglich, konsumierbar. Diese Animation hält sie uns hingegen nicht vom Leib, ohne allerdings die Schläge, das Gemetzel und den Sadismus selbst zu dokumentieren. Sie durchdringt uns mit ihrer Intensität, indem sie das Sichtbare als Schleier der eigentlichen Gewalt vorführt.


Geleitet wird unser Blick durch die eingesprochenen Reportagen über die Bürgerkriege unter dem Regime von Charles Taylor in Westafrika. Zusammen mit den Fotografien bildeten sie die Grundlage des Projekts Black.Light, in dem Illustratoren exemplarische Geschichten mit Collagen und eigenen Bildern erzählt haben. Die Animation führt durch zwei dieser Geschichten und verbindet die verschiedenen Ebenen des Berichtens über Gewalt zu einer eigenständigen Montage aus Bild und Ton. Entstanden ist eine höchst innovative Dokumentation zum Wesen des Traumas als „lang anhaltendem Nachklang eines schmerzvollen Echos“, wie es Mendes notiert hat.


Mit seiner Komposition der Texte und Bilder fragt die Animation vor allem, was nach der Gewalt bleibt und Zeugenschaft mit den Menschen macht: Morie, der einzige, sprachlose Überlebende eines Massakers; Mendes und Böwig, Ohrenzeugen einer Gewaltszene im nächtlichen Hotel Florida; und auch immer wieder im Bild die Täter, die Medien, letztlich auch wir als Betrachter. „Über Gewalt berichten“ führt uns mit dem Kaleidoskop des überlieferten Grauens in eine Aporie: Die Opfer vergessen zu machen, gehört zum Völkermorden, an sie zu erinnern ist eine humanitäre Aufgabe, um den Tätern nicht den ganzen Erfolg zu überlassen. Und doch kommt jeder Bericht zu spät. Das gilt es, als Echo dieser nachhallenden Animation auszuhalten: Wir verstehen vielleicht nicht die Gewalt besser, aber unseren Wunsch, die Augen und Ohren vor ihr zu verschließen.

Klaus Blanc, Habbo Knoch

Black Sun

He travels incognito wrapped by night: a dark honeycomb throbbing the darkness. This man is exactly that, a black sun radiating negative light, a bulimic star sipping however much life happens around him. He moves, and the darkness expands with each step.

Welcome to Charles Taylor’s King Lear.


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The battle cry of the rebels in Sierra Leone during the advance on Freetown in January 1999 had a terrifying simplicity about it: “No Living Thing.” A human being was not worth living, or did not ask for more remorse, than a chicken, a dog, a goat, perhaps because each soldier was previously turned into a beast, emptied of any values considered vaguely human. Or the combatants were even prevented for learning those values. It is the obvious case of the swarm of children caught in the war machine, of fighters methodically alienated by drugs, abuse or indoctrination.


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Dasia: When I first got here

A master narrative on violence, politics, justice, trauma and humanity by Dasia Masaquoi – in memoriam! A spoken moral essay, literally walking down Broad Street. “You see fear. Raw fear. And that raw fear is turned and transcended into power.  The other side is a mirror. You are in the driver’s seat and there’s a victim in fear. And this fear is reflected between two people. This violence, you go into it and you don’t question yourself again.”


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Shivering in ruins

One madman completely naked masturbates alone in the empty street, ignoring the soldiers running past him for shelter as the Katiuska mortars start to whistle and fall in the neighborhood.

June 1998, Bissau: two armies fighting street by street with heavy artillery. The farewell to Amílcar Cabral, the founding father and moral reference of the nation.


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The Zone

In the rebel area with Commander Alpha Mike, the only officer leading an outpost of child soldiers, all high on drugs and beer.  “ – Careful, get his weapon!-” Before a burst of gunfire could erupt, the rebel was brought to his knees by his colleagues, to a flurry of lashing with belt buckles, till he offered no further resistance or reply, his eyebrow cut, humiliated, drooling blood and dirt.


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