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Guillaume Bonn Photography Born in 1970 in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Lives in Paris, France.
Joseph, 38 years old, left his wife and two children back at home in Samburu to find work as an "askari" (watchman) in Nairobi. The services of private security companies are much in demand because of the exceptionally high incidence of attacks on private homes by thugs carrying AK 47s and other weapons. Askaris are forbidden to carry arms, but bows and arrows, sometimes tipped with a deadly poison, are tolerated. Joseph is currently looking for a second "town" wife to marry.The maids are preparing a room for a guest who is coming to spend the weekend.Phyllis, 23, works as a maid for a family living on the shores of Lake Naivasha. She commutes daily to this vast estate containing buffalo, zebra and giraffe from the nearby shanty town where she was born and raised. She has yet to marry and have children of her own.Teatime, on the veranda of an old colonial house owned by a French family who have been living in Kenya for three decades. The house is situated in Muthaiga, the most residential area in Nairobi.Stephen is 47 years old and comes from Uvaleni village in Makueni district. He has been married twice and has eight children. He works as a security guard during the day in a residential area of Nairobi.A maid prepares a picnic lunch for her employers, who have a farm at Lake Naivasha, and their friends.A gardener on week end duty cleans the swimming pool while his employer's guest sunbathes. The property is situated in Ulu 45 minutes outside of Nairobi, the Kenyan capital."THE GATE" David,40 years old, left his village in northwest Kenya, to seek work as an askari or watchman in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi because his plot of land where he grows vegetables was too small to feed his six children.

Project Description

Silent Lives was inspired by Juliette, a Madagascan matriarch who worked for my grandfather for 50 years. When he died, she decided to leave us with neither farewell nor retirement package. The family were stricken by her abrupt departure but were never able to trace her whereabouts. Juliette’s actions said she needed neither us nor our money. My grandfather had assumed that he was in charge but perhaps the true power lay with Juliette after all. So in fact the power relationship between employer and employed is shifting and subtle. What Juliette had demonstrated still tends to hold true today. Employers know very little about their servants’ lives, their families, their dreams and hopes. Their servants have no authority but carry a large burden of responsibility. These people who are banished to small rooms at the bottom of the garden when night has fallen are, during the day, stewards of power. The nannies nurture their employers’ children and help to shape their perception of the world. The chauffeurs take the children to school and back driving in a way that will keep them out of harm’s way from not only car accidents but carjackers and kidnappers. The night watchmen guard the property at night with only a club or perhaps a bow and arrows. It is not uncommon to read that a night watchman has been shot dead by gun-bearing thugs. All these people see much and say little. And they never betray the trust that has been bestowed on them. When their charges grow up and become employers themselves, will they remember who looked after them? Silent Lives is my way of honoring these men and women by shining a light on how they live as they uphold their side of the contract. I cannot say it is an attempt to restore their dignity, because it is very clear that they never lost it.

Publications (Excerpt)

2006, Monograph, Le Mal D'afrique: A Journey into Old And New Africa
2006, Monograph, Peter Beard: Scrapbooks from Africa And Beyond

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