Administration building, Antsiranana, Madagascar

Guy Tillim

Date : 2007

Medium : Photography

Size : 91.5 x 131.5cm

"In many African cities, there are streets, avenues and squares named after Patrice Lumumba, one of the first elected African leaders of modern times, winning the Congo election after independence from Belgium in 1960. His speech at the independence celebrations in Léopoldville, in the presence of the Belgian King, Baudouin, unequivocally signalled his opposition to the West's idea of neo-colonial order that would replace overt domination with indirect control. He was assassinated in January 1961 by Belgian agents after UN complicity in the secession of the provinces of Katanga and South Kasai, and a Western power-supported military coup led by Mobutu Sese Seko. Today his image as a nationalist visionary necessarily remains unmolested by the accusations of abuse of power that became synonymous with later African heads of state."

“These photographs are not collapsed histories of post-colonial African states or a meditation on aspects of late-modernist-era colonial structures, but a walk through avenues of dreams. Patrice Lumumba’s dream, his nationalism, is discernible in the structures, if one reads certain clues, as is the death of his dream, in these de facto monuments. How strange that modernism, which eschewed monument and past for nature and future, should carry such memory so well.”
Guy Tillim

The guide

Sometimes, biographical elements shed light on an artist's work. Such is the case with Guy Tillim. Let us begin with his roots. A white South African, he grew up surrounded by the violence and tragedy of apartheid. As an adult, he works as a war photographer throughout Africa for Agence France Presse and Agence VU.

Now you can better understand the style and highly unique ambience that emerges in Administration Building. Tillim has chosen a point of view that is almost outside the frame: the man sitting at his desk is incidental. The real subject is its Kafkaesque perspective: the hallway that holds so many stories, just out of reach.
Tillim does not do fashion shoots or landscape photography, nor does he retouch models. Today, his work, which is recognised as art in its own right, borrows heavily from photojournalism. Through it, he is developing a universal language to combat ignorance and racism.
Utopian? Perhaps. Optimistic? Definitely.
Despite the many terrible events Tillim has captured over the span of his career, he cannot help but look at the people around him from a humanist perspective.
Gently, humbly—almost discreetly—he infiltrates the tense political and social context of postcolonial society. In this timeless architecture, a silhouette emerges: a young woman crosses a ray of light. What is she looking at? Where is she trying to slip off to?
The power of photography lies in its ability to build bridges between human beings and, of course, to capture the intangible, that moment of suspense when our thoughts take flight.