Interview: Alfred Khumalo

A pot of gold at the end of a Highway Like finding gold at the end of a rainbow,
we found Mr. Mangaliso ( meaning ‘ the amazing one’), at the end of the Soweto
Highway. He is better known as Alfred Kumalo, world famous photographer and
journalist.

With a towering list of credentials to add to his name it is no wonder Kumalo
received the “The Order Of Ikhamanga in Silver” award last year, among numerous
others. ( Highest National award a country can bestow on its citizens and foreign
nationals) His work being used in the Drum, Sunday Times, and internationally,
New York Times, New York Post and The Sunday Independent (UK).

Kumalo started his career in 1951, as a freelancing journalist for Bantu World. Not
having a photographer to accompany him on his stories, Kumalo started to teach
himself what would soon become his esoteric talent. Today he owns the Alfred
Kumalo Museum, a treasure in the middle of the winding streets of Soweto. Here
he displays his life, a time-line of photographs portraying all of our collective history.

Each picture simply demands all your attention, passion and respect. The artistic grace, emotional intelligence
and the self application to his talent is clearly seen as he describes each one. Despite numerous arrests,
harassment and detention Alfred continued to force the world to acknowledge reality of South African politics
in the 1960’s. His recipe for success: “Being able to sneak photo’s” Believing determination brings reward and
being a perfectionist in everything he attempts. Even if it meant scrubbing the kitchen floor as a young boy,
or puttingyour camera in a vegetable bag in order to freeze frame police arresting Winnie Mandela outside her
house.

“..the beauty that is life in South Africa.”

Alfred’s museum has been running for two years. He also runs a photography school for people from
disadvantaged backgrounds. This is a pilot project and will expand to Tanzania, Ethiopia and Swaziland.
Through sponsorships he has been able to provide these opportunities to his community. Company’s like
Daimler Chrysler, The Italian NGO’s, Movimodo and IBM were pillars in the construction of his dream, and
he extends a deep gratitude to these people who are willing to pick up the flag and lead other companies
into the future of our country.

Kumalo’s playful and positive character shines through in his light blue eyes. He is a man with a
contagious laugh and amazing eye for the beauty that lies in ordinary things, the beauty that is life in
South Africa.

By Izane Mynhardt


The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver Awarded to Alfred Kumalo for his excellent contribution to documentary
photography and journalism in South Africa. Alf Kumalo was born in Johannesburg and matriculated at the
Wilberforce Institute in Evaton. He started his working career as journalist in 1951, freelancing for
Bantu World.

As young man, Kumalo had been captivated by the visual impact of the printed picture, especially its ability
to capture permanently the essence of what is seen or imagined, and to freeze moments in time, even trying
his hand at drawing scenes which caught his attention. Having experienced the matchless facility of the
camera to capture the image, Kumalo’s childhood obsession inevitably led him to follow the profession of
photography.

In the course of and illustrious career as a documentary photographer for over half a century, Kumalo’s
has documented the life and times of the evolving South Africa, both the common place and the historic.
Kumalo documented their inter alia, the Treason Trial, the resurgence of the trade unions in the 1970s, the
emergence of Black Consciousness, the Student Uprising of 1976, the state of emergency of the 1980s, the
unbanning of the liberation movements, the Codesa talks, the first democratic elections and the inauguration
of the first democratic government. His drive to capture the moment allowed him the privilege of witnessing
and recording extraordinary moments. Over the years, his work has been published in most South African
newspapers and journals and in many cross the globe, including the Observer (UK) New York Times, New York
Post, The Sunday Independent (UK).

Most recently, Khumalo was given the singular honour of exhibiting a collection of his life’s work at he 59th
Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2004, an exhibition that drew much
acclaim. Despite his age, Khumalo continues to work professionally and to dedicate his time and effort to
promoting his craft. In an effort to ensure that a new generation of South African photographers emerge and
to make sure that aspiring photographers do not face the same obstacles he did when he started out, he has
opened photographic school in Diepkloof Soweto, which offers nine-month courses designed to train
photographers from disadvantaged back grounds.

South Africa will for all time be indebted to this outstanding documentary photographer whose immense body
of work stands as a monument to his perseverance and to the dedication to his art, as well as to the struggles
that have won us freedom and democracy.