Guy Tillim has been photographing in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire) over the past decade. In 2006 he revisited the contact sheets of his travels in the eastern Congo in 2002 and came across this series of child soldiers, which he had previously overlooked. In his exhibition and book Leopold and Mobutu (2004), a poignant reflection on the sad similarities between the colonial powers and the African dictators empowered by them, he included a series of eight portraits of young Mai Mai militia taken outdoors (see below). At the time he photographed the child soldiers they were not being used as a traditional defence militia but being drafted into one of the rebel factions in the battle for the mineral riches of east Congo.
Mai Mai militia in training near Beni, eastern DRC, for immediate deployment with the APC (Armée Populaire du Congo), the army of the RCD-KIS-ML, December 2002, installation photograph, 2006.
17 June - 19 July 2003
Guy Tillim's Soldiers series of black-and-white
were taken between December 2002 and January 2003 and
devastating effect on civilians of the five-year war
Congolese government and the ever-splintering rebel
to UN figures, some two million people have been displaced
conflict in eastern Congo.
On assuming power in 2001, President Joseph Kabila pledged
civil and political rights, but throughout 2002 he
exercise autocratic powers inherited from his late father
Laurent Desire Kabila. The Ugandan and Rwandan governments
to support various factions in securing access to one of
mineral areas in Africa (gold, diamonds, cobalt and columbia
tantalite, or coltan). None of the factions have shown any
for the civilian population, or for any length of time
These portraits were made near Koidu in Sierra Leone of
(hunter) militias in June 2001. They are traditional
who responed to the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
the area, defending their villages against annihilation.
wearing protective amulets and their preparation shrouded
became collectively defined by the government as the Civil
and colloquially known as the Kamajoors.
© 2003 Michael Stevenson. All