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.
Guy Tillim embarked on this project as the recipient of the first Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography granted by the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. Avenue Patrice Lumumba will be shown in 2009 at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris, France; The Photographers' Gallery in London; Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal. A book has been published by Prestel.
In 2008 Tillim has held solo exhibitions at Haunch of Venison in Zurich and Haus für Kunst in Altdorf, Switzerland, and has been included on Biennale Cuvée at the OK Center for Contemporary Art in Linz, Austria; the Hereford Photography Festival - Contemporary Photography from South Africa Part 2 - in the UK; and Presumed Innocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children at DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Massachusetts, USA.
Avenue Patrice Lumumba runs concurrently with Ângela Ferreira: For Mozambique and Manthia Diawara: Maison Tropicale. The exhibitions open on Thursday 10 July, 6 - 8pm. Tillim will give a walkabout of his exhibition for the Friends of the National Gallery on Thursday 17 July at 11am. All are welcome; cost is R20 for members and non-members. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
© 2008 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.