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. 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.)
Guy Tillim’s 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, school, offices, hotels, and banks. He winds around their staircases and looks through their windows, finding offices and classrooms void 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.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Website