My first monograph “Le Mal D’Afrique, a journey into old and new Africa” was published exactly ten years ago.
So much has changed since these pictures were taken and so much remains the same. I thought it would be interesting and pertinent to look at all these pictures and reflect on what we have achieved or not collectively. Marc Lacey who was the bureau chief in Nairobi, for The New York Times wrote this powerful essay describing what I tried to achieve with this book.
Walk into any bookstore and glossy photographic accounts of Africa abound. Some of these books focus on the tribal traditions of the African people. Others look at the wildlife that makes Africa so unique. It is time to clear a little space on the shelves for this book, which is unlike any that have come before.
Guillaume Bonn’s view of Africa goes back in time but also peers ahead. It is journalistic, artistic and deeply personal all at once. The photographs on these pages are not just enjoyable to look at.They teach. They shock. They inspire.
I have explored Africa with Guillaume in recent years. We have witnessed Africa’s tragedies together and admired its many joys. We have hiked together and flown together and bumped along rocky roads side by side. We have experienced sprawling African cities and tiny African villages. Some of these photographs remind me of our time together.
But I am a mere interloper when it comes to Africa, one of the cycle of journalists sent to cover the continent for a while before moving on someplace else. This book reminds me that there are people like Guillaume, who were here long before I arrived and will be around when I have found a new home. Africa is Guillaume’s birthplace and his home, something that the photographs here make clear.
To illustrate a bit of his past, Guillaume has opened up his family photo album. It is one thing to hear Guillaume describe that his ancestors have called Africa home going back four generations. It is quite another to see his great grandfather in military uniform during an expedition to Niger and Sudan, or his grandfather hunting a giant crocodile in Madagascar or his father wearing a colonial-era pith helmet while being cradled by his nanny. Needless to say, the white explorers who “discovered” Africa’s left much trouble in their wake. Guillaume thinks often of Africa’s painful history and his own family’s role in it. He grapples as well with the many challenges Africa faces in the future, in holding onto its traditions, in maintaining its natural beauty and in grappling with urban sprawl. These threats to the Africa Guillaume has come to know so well are captured in images here.