Congo Democratic, Guy Tillim's photography

Guy Tillim Congo Democratic

The statue of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley which overlooked Kinshasa in colonial times. It rests on a steamboat that belonged to the African International Association, a company publicly charged by Leopold II with a philanthropic and 'civilising' mission that veiled itstrue purpose of annexing and exploiting naturalresources. The statue was removed during the Mobutu period of Africanisation in the 1970s and dumped in agovernment transport lot in Kinshasa. Kinshasa, DRC, September 2003.

Presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba enters astadium in central Kinshasa flanked by his bodyguards during an election rally. Kinshasa, DRC, July 2006.

Followers of Etienne Tshisikedi, calling for a boycott of the elections, burn a Kabila election billboard, central Kinshasa. Kinshasa, DRC, July 2006.

A statue of Patrice Lumumba erected by Laurent Kabila, and an unfinished tower built during the Mobutu years, look down on Jean-Pierre Bemba supporters asthey make their way to an election rally in Kinshasa. Kinshasa, DRC, July 2006.

A traditional dancer and crowd salute Jean-Pierre Bemba as he walks to a rally from the airport. Kinshasa, DRC, July 2006.

The looted remains of Mobutu Sese Seko's residence at Gbadolite. Gbadolite, DRC, September 2003.

Mai Mai general Vita Katembola, surrounded by his bodyguards at their base near Beni, northeastern DRC. At the time this group was allied to a rebel army in the region known as the Rally for Congolese Democracy-Kisangani-Movement for Liberation, which was in turn allied to the Kinshasa government. Beni, DRC, January2003.

A UN helicopter lands at Bunyatenge, eastern DRC, a mai-mai militia strong hold, bringing a mai-mai general to negotiate the former Rwandan Hutu army’s return to Rwanda. Kinshasa, DRC, September 2003.

Residents of the town of Goma in eastern DRC salute Laurent Kabila after his army took control, displacing the Mobutu forces. Goma, DRC, May 1997.

Statues from the colonial era, including amounted Leopold II, litter a transport ministry depot. Kinshasa, DRC, September2003.

Artist's Statement

In modern times, the territory that has become known as the Democratic Republic of Congo began by being the object of imperial expansion and colonial dominion. The nature of these conquests set the tone for the calamities that have followed: the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko and civil war. The recent UN-sponsored elections are undermined by mistrust. These images trace some aspects of the individuals and institutions that have been in power in the Congo.

About the photographer


1962, Johannesburg, South Africa


South African

Based in

Cape Town, South Africa

About Guy Tillim

Guy Tillim 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 from 1986 to 1988, and Agence France Presse in 1993 and 1994. Tillim has received many awards for his work including the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2005 and the first Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography from the Peabody Museum at Harvard University in 2006. His work was included on Documenta 12 in 2007 and the São Paulo Biennial in 2006.

Tillim has received many awards for his work including the Prix SCAM (Société Civile des Auteurs Multimedia) Roger Pic in 2002, the Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Award in 2003 and the 2004 DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Photography. He held solo exhibitions at Haus für Kunst Uri, Altdorf (2008) and Haunch of Venison, Zurich (2008). His recent group exhibitions include Great Expectations: Contemporary Photography looks at Today’s Bitter Yearsat Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain (2009), The Face of Our Time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2009), Peripheral Vision and Collective Body at the Museion, Bolzano (2008), Home Lands – Land Marks at Haunch of Venison, London (2008), SLUM: Art and Life in the Here and Now of the Civil Age at the Neue Galerie, Graz (2006), Photography, Video, Mixed Media III at the Daimler Contemporary Gallery, Berlin (2006) and the travelling exhibition Africa Remix (2004-07). His work is included in the Phaidon publication Vitamin Ph (2006).