Death of an SA legend

2012-10-22 00:00

THE legendary Alf Kumalo, who chronicled the country’s Struggle history, as well as the birth of freedom through the lens of his camera, died yesterday after a long illness.

He was 82 years old.

Kumalo’s son, Sizwe, told sister paper Beeld that his father had been ill for a long time and was frequently hospitalised.

Zelda la Grange, former president Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant, tweeted: “He served his country and his people well. What a legend.”

The Star reported in July that Kumalo had been hospitalised at the Netcare Waterfall Hospital in Sandton.

Among his visitors was long-time friend Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

At the time, Madikizela-Mandela was quoted in the paper saying: “Alf is a family photographer. I knew him before I got married and he has been part of the family. I was very sorry when I heard he was in hospital.”

According to, the Alexandra-born Kumalo’s first foray into journalism was as a freelancer at Bantu World in 1951.

He eventually found a permanent position at the Golden City Post in 1956 before making a name for himself at Drum.

Through the lens of his camera, he documented the life and times of a changing South Africa in an illustrious career that spanned over 50 years.

He photographed events such as the Sharpeville massacre, the 1956 treason trial, the Rivonia trial, and the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement.

Other historical moments he captured were the 1976 student uprising, the 1980s state of emergency, the unbanning of the liberation movements, the Codesa talks, the first democratic elections and the inauguration of South Africa’s first democratic government.

He was also a guest of Muhammad Ali at the famous Rumble in the Jungle boxing match in Zaire (now DRC) in 1974.

In October of 2004, then president Thabo Mbeki awarded the Order of the Ikhamanga in (Silver) for his excellent contribution to documentary photography and journalism in SA. A month earlier, Kumalo’s work was honoured by a solo exhibition of his life’s work at the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In his retirement he ran and managed the Kumalo Photographic Museum in Diepkloof, Soweto. In 2010, Kumalo had a cameo role — as himself — in the film The Bang Bang Club.


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