The pages of The Afropolitan have been the proud hosts of many of Alf Kumalo’s iconic works. A man who allowed local and international audiences to share in the history of the country through the breath-taking pictures he developed; Alf’s passing is a huge loss. Not only to the photography fraternity, but the world at large.
In a tribute Former President Thabo Mbeki summed it up by stating that"Alf Kumalo was more than a documentary photo-journalist; he was, above all, one of South Africa's eminent historians.” Nothing could be closer to the truth.
As a self-taught photographer, Natal born, Alexandra-raised Alfred Kumalo (affectionately known as Alf) completed his Matric education in Evaton, north of Sebokeng in the Vaal area. In 1950 Alf joined a publication called Bantu World as a photographer; thereafter he joined The Golden City Post. It was his long-term position as a photographer for Drum Magazine that saw Alf really come into his own and get maximum exposure.
“Alf Kumalo was more than a documentary photo-journalist; he was, above all, one of South Africa's eminent historians.” Former President Thabo Mbeki
Through his career, which spanned over 50 years, Alf would have the opportunity to cover many events that appear strongly in the timeline of the country’s history. Events that shaped the course of the history and the path that the country would take. These include the iconic Rivonia Trial which saw ANC leaders sentenced to imprisonment, the devastating Soweto Uprising of 1976 that took the lives of so many of our children, the frightening times during the state of emergency in the 1980’s and the uplifting moment when South Africa’s first democratic government was inaugurated.
As a photographer, Alf was not only a creative genius. He was dedicated to the point of risking his life to tell a story in pictures. Throughout the apartheid era many of the pictures he took made him a target for the police but he continued to follow his dream and tell the stories that needed to be told.
In 2002 he realised his long held dream and converted his Diepkloof, Soweto, residence and in it established the Alfred Kumalo Photographic Museum; a perfect venue to show all his extraordinary achievements. As a way of giving back to the community, the Museum is also a school of photography and has already started churning out multi-award winning photographers such as Paballo Thekiso, freelance photographer and owner of company“5point6media”.
Though Alf is gone, his work will remain, not only in the archives of image banks, or the corridors of his museum. His work will always be etched in our memories and continue to tell the story of a country that has travelled a long road to freedom!