Among the conquistadors

Photos and text by Teju Cole

foggy park-like area in Savanna, Georgia

In Savannah, a homeless man, quite drunk, came out of the fog. “I am homeless,” he announced. He began to fulminate about the statues in front of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. They were of famous artists, but he took them to be conquistadors. “This one,” he said, pointing to Raphael, “was a mass murderer. And that one over there” — Phidias — “was a child abuser.”

I gave him money. He reached into his coat and handed me a flower.

hand holding flower

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Website. Writer, art historian, street photographer, Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College. Born in the US (1975) to Nigerian parents, raised in Nigeria. Lives in Brooklyn. Author of two books, a novella, Every Day is for the Thief, and a novel, Open City. Contributor to the New York Times, Qarrtsiluni, Chimurenga, the New Yorker, Transition, Tin House, A Public Space, etc. Currently at work on a book-length non-fiction narrative of Lagos, and on Small Fates.


  1. Wow, a beautiful photo essay/story/poem. Savannah is an amazing city, a just right setting for this tale.


  2. A beautiful story of graciousness in a beautifully gracious city…a gift of listening, a return gift of magnolia, which in the language of flowers represents dignity. As always, thank you, Teju.


  3. Luminous, in the way only Teju’s prose and photographs can be.


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