PHOTOGRAPHY: Africa in focus
Exhibitions turn lens on the continent, past and present
Priya Ramrakha was a Kenyan-born photojournalist who did some of his most prolific work in Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the continent’s independence struggles.
Born into an activist journalistic family, Ramrakha was one of the first African photojournalists employed by such prestigious titles as Time and Life magazines. Among the influential figures he photographed were Kenyan trade unionist and independence activist Tom Mboya; Jomo Kenyatta, independent Kenya’s first head of state; and Nigerian politician Odumegwu Ojukwu. He also photographed a number of US politicians and civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Richard Nixon, and even the British royal family.
While covering the Nigerian civil war with CBS correspondent Morley Safer in 1968, Ramrakha was killed by Biafran soldiers in an ambush near Owerri.
Recently, a series of his unpublished photographs was uncovered. This forms the backbone of an exhibition that opens in Johannesburg this week. Priya Ramrakha: A Pan-African Perspective, 1950-1968 affords one the opportunity to see the work of this remarkable photojournalist, and reflect on Africa’s past struggles while contemplating its many current challenges.
Life on the streets
Another photographer to capture African life, this time on the streets of major cities, is Guy Tillim, winner of the 2017 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award.
Tillim started out as a reporter in SA in the 1980s but was drawn to photography as a means of telling the story of the anti-apartheid struggle.
His latest work, Museum of the Revolution, for which he won the award, incorporates photographs shot on the streets of African capitals such as Johannesburg, Maputo, Luanda, Harare, Libreville, Addis Ababa and Nairobi. Thanks to the Henri Cartier-Bresson Fo u n d a tion, he plans to continue his project in Dakar, Accra, Kampala and Lagos.