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Guy Tillim – Avenue Patrice Lumumba

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Prestel Verlag / Peabody Museum – 2009

In his project Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2007-08), South African artist Guy Tillim (b. 1962) records the architecture and infrastructure of colonial and postcolonial Africa. Patrice Lumumba (1925-61) was one of the first elected African leaders in modern times.

Tillim avoids intense action entirely, and instead focuses on the architecture, landscape, and people in African countries where the legacy of colonialism forms a backdrop but does not capture the essence of individual lives unfolding. His pictures portray the crumbling institutional buildings—post offices, schools, hotels, and offices—that were built by colonial governments in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Mozambique. As Tillim explains, “There’s a ten-year period in the late modernist world where there was this grand colonial architecture built in Francophone Africa and Lusophone Africa. It was this strange contemporary mythological time. These buildings are impressive, for all their inappropriateness they nonetheless form part of a contemporary African stage. If you look at them in a certain way, they’re just kind of floating worlds.”

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