21 October 2012

South Africa: Mbeki On the Passing of SA Photographer

Photo: BooksLIVE
Alfred Kumalo, left, with musician Hugh Masekela, center, and journalist Joe Thloloe at the launch of the book "Alf Kumalo: Through My Lens".

Johannesburg — Former President Thabo Mbeki was saddened by the death of acclaimed photographer Alfred Kumalo on Sunday.

"Alf Kumalo was more than a documentary photo journalist, he was, above all, one of South Africa's eminent historians," Mbeki was quoted in a statement.

Kumalo passed away at a Johannesburg hospital suffering from renal failure, it was reported on Sunday night.

Mbeki said Kumalo's life and work was part of a national treasure which should be preserved for current and future generations.

“No one could contradict the truth of what he captured so competently through the lens."

He said Kumalo had been subjected to harassment during apartheid but had not succumb to the pressure.

"Aware that the power of his narrative was unimpeachable, the apartheid regime subjected him to constant harassment in the hope that Kumalo, a humble and tenacious man of integrity, would abandon his work or sell his soul altogether. He did not," said Mbeki.

As a self-taught photographer who became one of the best in the field, Kumalo was an example of what dedication, hard work and commitment to life-long learning can yield, said Mbeki.

Kumalo, 82, was born in Alexandra, and made his name as a photographer for Drum Magazine.

Kumalo who matriculated at the Wilberforce Institute in Evaton began his working career as a journalist and photographer for Bantu World in Johannesburg in 1951. In 1956 he joined the Golden City Post as a permanent staffer.

He covered the 1976 student uprising, the State of Emergency during the 1980s, the unbanning of the liberation movements and the inauguration of South Africa's first democratic government among a host of other events during a career which spanned over more than 50 years.

Kumalo despite his advanced age still worked professionally and ran a professional photographic school in Diepkloof.

In 2004, Kumalo was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga, an award recognising his contribution to documentary photography and journalism in South Africa.

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