“ Like an archeologist, Bonn has the urge to seek out and preserve whatever amounts to a legacy of the past in East Africa. The difference is that he takes pictures, and that the past he seeks to record is quite a recent one. Colonial Africa came and went virtually in a lifetime: on the “Coast,” the first country to become free was Somalia, in 1960, and the last was Mozambique, in 1975, after a decade of armed revolt. All along the Mosquito Coast today, Africans subsist in a kind of existential limbo, eking out their lives amidst the wreckage of lost civilizations. In many places, nothing has yet come along to replace them. In Beira, we see abandoned night clubs, golf clubs, and hotels, proof that there was a time before, in which other, more prosperous people once lived there—people who had time for things like recreation. In the blackened cavity of a long-since abandoned Olympic-sized swimming pool, a woman squats at the water’s edge, washing clothes. The onetime luxury hotel behind her is now a squalid tenement for poor people like herself. In Mogadishu, on her way from one place to another, a Somali woman in a red robe and matching turban takes a shortcut through the archway of the bombed-out husk of the old Italian cathedral. In Tanga, a librarian sits at a desk that is overlooked by a bronze bust of the late British King George VI, still there after all these years.
It has been his destiny to document the demise of the old ways and the natural environment of the continent that gave him birth. But the human upheaval he spends his life witnessing and recording is also his own. However much Bonn loves Africa, he is becoming inexorably displaced from it. The proof of life that was left behind by his forebears, and others like them, is vanishing quickly”.
Jon Lee Anderson