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Kumalo looks back on 60 years

By Vusi Ndlovu | Nov 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

AS YOU enter the Alf Kumalo Museum in Diepkloof, Soweto, a mix of black-and-white and colour images catch your eye.

AS YOU enter the Alf Kumalo Museum in Diepkloof, Soweto, a mix of black-and-white and colour images catch your eye.

These are the works veteran, multi-award winning photo-journalist Alf Kumalo has recorded over six decades.

Some of these images, which elevated him to the status of an international icon, feature in his recently launched book Through My Lens.

In the book, he also appears in front of the camera with greats such as former president Nelson Mandela, former world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, former US president Bill Clinton and many others.

Kumalo reveals how he met Mandela in the 1960s, when the political icon was an ordinary lawyer.

One of the pictures he took was of Mandela embracing his dog at his house in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, in 1961.

The picture became a valuable treasure of Mandela after the famous Rivonia treason trial.

Having started taking pictures in 1945, I asked him when he had taken his last picture. He laughed and said: "Yesterday. It is a picture of Mandela in Pretoria."

He says that adapting to digital technology has not been a problem for him.

"It is good for print. It helps with beating deadlines," he says. "In the time you have spent here, with digital, the pictures would be all over the world already.

"But the negative side is that people can join two images taken in different locations as if they were taken together."

The highlight of his career was when he clinched a boxing deal with Ali. "I signed a deal to get Ali to fight in Swaziland in 1977.

"The deal was worth R5million. Mind you, back then the rand was stronger than the US dollar.

"But the apartheid authorities wanted it in then Bophuthatswana. They alleged the money would be used by communists.

"But we refused to bring it to their homeland. We would have made R50million through satellite because it was to be broadcast throughout the world."

With a career spanning 64 years, what has kept Kumalo going?

"A passion. The more complex the situation was, the more I wanted to achieve my goals. I managed to get through where my colleagues could not."

Kumalo has worked for local and international publications that include the banned The World and Golden City Post. His works have also graced the pages of the Sunday Times and the Star, the last paper he worked for.

He has been awarded the Presidential Order Ikhamanga in silver and the Nat Nakasa award for Integrity. He still freelances for newspapers.


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