Koglweogo, miroir d’une faillite d’Etat is a project that was hailed as one of the best photojournalistic subjects by Visa pour l’image in 2018, and it is being exhibited here for the first time. Accompanied by journalist Valentine van Vyve, Olivier Papegnies set off to meet the Koglweogo, those self-defence groups in Burkina Faso which are as necessary as they are controversial. The result is these black and white prints, which sit somewhere between reportage and artistic project.

Since 2015, these groups have been setting themselves up as ‘guardians of the forest’, forming a transverse social movement across Burkina Faso society. Originally coming from the countryside, they have now reached the cities and the nation’s capital. These groups have been spawned by a population who are fed up with being victims of gangsters, highway bandits, robbers and terrorists, and who have made up their minds to take back control of their own security. These ‘militias’ describe themselves as actors for peace and defenders of the common good, and they seek to combat two problems: injustice and corruption in law enforcement. Supported by the population, who seem to have regained a certain measure of calm, the Koglweogo have commandeered the right of arrest and judgement, handing down sometimes savage punishments after trials by people’s courts (physical brutality and humiliations). So they do not respect the law and are becoming hard to control, which worries the defenders of human rights, who fear a threat to the rule of law. The Koglweogo enjoy such a level of popular support that the politicians cannot move against them openly.

Born in 1970 in Nivelles, Belgium. Lives and works in Brussels. Member of the Huma collective. Olivier Papegnies became a photojournalist in 1997. His reports have been published in the Belgian and international press, including in La Libre Belgique and Le Monde, both of which he collaborates with. He also works with various NGOS, such as Médecins du Monde and Handicap International.

He has won several prizes, notably the Special Jury Prize at the Scoop and Journalism festival in Angers, the Belfius prize in 2010, the NPPA (Nikon Press Photo Award) in 2011 and the Journalism Prize awarded by the Walloon-Brussels Parliament in 2012 for his work Fous d’Amour. In 2015, he won a bursary from the ‘fund for journalism’ to enable him to conduct a survey into Christians in Lebanon. In 2017, he won another bursary, to accompany Valentine Van Vyve to investigate the Koglweogo self-defence groups in Burkina Faso, and in 2018, his report Koglweogo, miroir d’une faillite d’Etat was awarded the ‘Visa d’or de l’information numérique franceinfo’ by ‘Visa pour l’image’ in Perpignan. With the Huma collective, he is currently working on the project What the Foot, a report into women’s football round the world.