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Peabody Museum Presents Avenue Patrice Lumumba: Photographs by Guy Tillim
Guy Tillim, Maputo, Mozambique, 2007. Photo by Guy Tillim.

CAMBRIDGE, MA.- The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology presents a new exhibition and publication, Avenue Patrice Lumumba: Photographs by Guy Tillim. As the first recipient of the Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at the Peabody Museum, Guy Tillim traveled through Angola, Mozambique, Congo, and Madagascar, documenting the grand colonial architecture and how it has become part of a contemporary African stage.

Guy Tillim’s large photographs reveal the decay and detritus of colonialism in Western and Southern Africa on a scale both monumental and slight. He exposes the stains, cracks, and filth of huge, crumbling institutional structures: post offices, schools, offices, hotels, banks. He winds around their staircases and looks through their windows, finding offices and classrooms devoid of basic equipment and furniture. While the people in these images are almost peripheral—at the frames’ edges, with turned backs, or slightly out of focus—there is an acute sense of humanity in the images, shown through the personal objects left behind: an umbrella, a house plant, a purse, a book.

As Tillim told an interviewer in 2008, “The buildings are very much inhabited, but many are decaying, so the challenge was not to become a connoisseur of decay, or come up with some sort of Havana-esque vision. I’d thought about this project for quite a number of years, wondered how I’d ever get around to it. Then the Fellowship came.” (a. magazine, July 2008.)

The exhibition opens Wednesday, April 29, 2009 and will remain on view through September 8, 2009. There will be a book signing of Avenue Patrice Lumumba: Photographs by Guy Tillim at the opening.

Guy Tillim is an award-winning documentary still photographer from South Africa. Tillim began his professional career in 1986 and worked as a freelance photojournalist for the local and foreign media, including Reuters and Agence France-Presse. He has exhibited in more than a dozen countries and published in numerous volumes and journals; his work has focused on documenting social conflict and inequality in the countries of Africa. From teenage soldiers in Rwanda to civil war in Congo to the dislocation of entire populations in Angola, Tillim returns to lands whose violence he once covered as a journalist to recover the shadows that violence produced in the people and lands.

In the words of arts curator Michket Krifa, “Guy Tillim … combines a profound sense of historic documentation of African countries ravaged by conflicts and tragedies of all kinds and a very stringent formal aesthetic devoid of all mannerism.”

Tillim has received many awards for his work including the Prix SCAM (Société civile des auteurs multimédia) Roger Pic in 2002, the Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Award (Japan) in 2003, the 2004 DaimlerChrysler Arts Award for South African photography, and the 2005 Leica Oskar Barnack Award.

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