Image: Guy Tillim, Entebbe Road, Accra, May 2017, pigment ink on cotton paper, triptych, 90 x 60cm each
STEVENSON congratulates Guy Tillim on winning the HCB Award 2017, presented by the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris. Tillim was selected for his body of work titled Museum of the Revolution.
The HCB Award supports the creation of a photography project which could not be achieved without this help. It is intended for a photographer who has already completed a significant body of work, close to the documentary approach. The prize includes an exhibition at the foundation in Paris and funding towards the publication of a book.
Jury members included Clément Chéroux, senior curator of Photography, SFMOMA, San Francisco; Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès, member of the Board of Directors of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès; Lorenza Bravetta, adviser to the Minister Franceschini for the enhancement of the national photographic heritage, Turin; Florian Ebner, head of Photography Department, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Nathalie Giraudeau, director, Centre photographique d’Île de France, Caris; Thyago Nogueira, head of Contemporary Photography Department at Instituto Moreira Salles and editor of ZUM magazine, São Paulo; Agnès Sire, director, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris.
Tillim’s project has involved photographing the streets of African capitals including Johannesburg, Durban, Maputo, Beira, Harare, Nairobi, Kigali, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Luanda, Libreville, Accra and Dakar, over the past four years. The photographic traditions of street photography frame the work, which reflects on how the grids and avenues of these cities are the living museums of both the successes and failures of the revolutions that overthrew the colonial powers.
The series takes its title from the Museum of the Revolution in Maputo, on the Avenida 24 Julho. The avenue was named soon after the establishment of Lourenço Marques as Portuguese colonial capital. The 24th of July 1875 marked the end of a Luso-British conflict for possession of the territory that was decided in favour of Portugal. A hundred years later the name of the avenue remains the same, but its meaning has changed dramatically. Mozambique’s independence from Portugal was proclaimed in June 1975, the capital was renamed Maputo, and all Portuguese property and buildings became the property of the state; 24 July is now celebrated as Nationalisation Day. Then, after a 13-year civil war that ended in 1990, the People’s Republic of Mozambique became the Republic of Mozambique and transitioned from Marxist state to a capitalist regime.
In the Museum of the Revolution is an image that has been in Tillim’s mind through the years of taking these photographs: a panoramic painting by North Korean artists of President Samora Machel leading the liberation through the streets of the capital. Joseph Lelyveld, writing in the New York Times in 1983, brings to the fore an anomaly that instantly strikes a foreign visitor to the museum. ‘Trained in the artistic conventions that have been fostered by the cult of Kim Il Sung, the North Korean artists only knew how to depict utopia. So the Lourenço Marques that leaps out from their canvas, one of gleaming white towers and perfect order, begs an awkward question: Why on earth did it need liberation? The question is especially awkward in view of the difficulties that are immediately apparent on the other side of the threshold of the museum. In the eighth year of the revolution, Maputo has a dilapidated, almost abandoned look. Seat of what is widely acknowledged to be one of Africa’s best-intentioned, most idealistic and least corrupt governments, it is also a city of grinding shortages.’
This narrative has played itself out in most African cities in the past 65 years, and these paradoxes and contradictions of post-colonial societies continue to prevail. They are seen most acutely on these streets and avenues, often laid out with grandeur by the colonial powers. Renamed with independence, today they are alive with the aspirations and frustrations of ordinary citizens going about their daily lives.
Read more here.
Tillim was born in Johannesburg in 1962 and lives in Vermaaklikheid in the Western Cape.
He started photographing professionally in 1986, working with the Afrapix collective until 1990. His work as a freelance photographer in South Africa for the local and foreign media included positions with Reuters between 1986 and 1988, and Agence France Presse in 1993 and 1994.
Tillim has received many awards for his work including the Prix SCAM (Societe Civile des Auteurs Multimedia) Roger Pic in 2002, the Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Award (Japan) in 2003, the 2004 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African photography, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2005 and the first Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography from the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in 2006.
Solo exhibitions have taken place at the Centre Photographique d’Ile-de-France, Paris; Huis Marseille Museum of Photography, Amsterdam; Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris; Museu Serralves in Porto; the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA; FOAM_Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam; Extracity, Antwerp; at Kunsthalle Oldenburg, Germany, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, among other institutions. His work was included on Documenta 12 in 2007 and the São Paulo Bienal in 2006, and the touring exhibitions Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (2012-14) and Africa Remix (2004-7), among others.