Tillim, Guy


South African, b. 1962; lives and works in Vermaaklikheid, South Africa


In his series Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2007–08), Guy Tillim documents the architecture that took shape during decolonization in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique during the 1960s and 1970s. In homage to the first elected African leader of modern times, the series ruminates on the ubiquitous reference to Patrice Lumumba in avenues across numerous African cities. Featuring images of large-scale department stores and monumental buildings in late-colonial modernist-era style, the series stages an inquiry into the hybridity of identity. Tillim has said, “These photographs are not collapsed histories of post-colonial African states or a meditation on aspects of late-modernist-era colonial buildings, but a walk through avenues of dreams.” In traversing these spaces, he says, “the buildings and the avenues, the naming of the avenues, the vestiges of the dreams, and the aspirations of the generations before, whether colonial or postcolonial, are written there and are fascinating to photograph.”

Taken in 2002, near the end of the Angolan Civil War, the series Kunhinga Portraits depicts displaced Angolan citizens who, after several days of walking, took refuge in the town of Kunhinga. These mothers, daughters and sisters are survivors of war, but their dignified bearing diverges from the norms of humanitarian “crisis” photography. One image hints that these subjects may also have collaborated with the photographer to compose a scene that could elicit the viewer’s empathy. Casting her eyes away and bringing her hands to her face, Fiorinda Ngoma assumes a pose that often signifies sorrow in Central African cultures and is sometimes adopted in front of a camera to express one’s difficult predicament.

Artworks by Tillim, Guy

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