Archive for January 5th, 2017


by Sam Juliano

Picture this.  Every Sunday afternoon in a maximum security prison inmates are allowed four hours to mill around in the compound’s yard.  Their relatives and friends are allowed to visit and remain for the duration of the time window, and are even permitted to bring food, musical instruments and books after close scrutiny at the entrance gate.  The prison’s warden has always been known as more progressive than some of his colleagues, and at least with this regulation he has helped to foster some measure of contentment among his otherwise worked-to-the-bone population, who endure six days of hard work, dawn to dusk before they are allowed to unwind.  Most of the prisoners are driven by  the knowledge that if they comply with the stringent regulations and uphold their responsibilities they will have earned four monthly dates of vivacious immersion.  Indeed, this is what drives them, and sustains their productivity.  A few prisoners attempt escape of course, but without exception they are either killed or recaptured.  Those who slack off while slamming sledgehammers on hard rocks or working in a hot kitchen or mess hall are whipped.   Happy anticipation kept hopelessness at bay, and there wasn’t a prisoner in the cell block who didn’t conduct a private count as the days till Sunday expired.  Alas, when someone wishes for time to pass by they are greeted with long and arduous days.  Conversely when one is enjoying themselves, the whistle blows before you even remember what happened.  This despairing scenario is at the heart of a magisterial picture book that brings together lyrically compelling poetry with lilting folk art attuned to setting, psychology and continual movement.  Freedom in Congo Square, which released at the very beginning of 2016 is a miracle of craftsmanship, a book that disturbs, ravishes and inspires at the same time it shoots an arrow through the heart. (more…)

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