National Orders awards
29 October 2004
Order of Ikhamanga in Silver
For his excellent contribution to documentary photography and journalism in South Africa.
Alf Khumalo was born in Johannesburg and matriculated at the WiIberforce Institute in Evaton.
He started his working career as a journalist in 1951, freelancing for Bantu World where he was also expected to take photographs to illustrate his stories. As a young man, Khumalo had been captivated by the visual impact of the printed picture, and 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, Khumalo's childhood obsession inevitably led him to follow the profession of photography.
In the course of an illustrious career as a documentary photographer for over half a century, Khumalo has documented the life and times of the evolving South Africa, both the commonplace and the historic, in the process capturing on film for all time, much of our collective history. Khumalo documented inter alia, the Treason Trial, the Rivonia Trial, the resurgence of the trade unions in the 1970s, the emergence of Black Consciousness, the Student Uprising of 1976, the state of emergencies of the 1980s, the un-banning 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 despite numerous bouts of detention, arrests and official harassment.
Over the years, his work has been published in newspapers and journals in most South African newspapers and in many across 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 the 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 a photographic school in Diepkloof, Soweto, which offers nine-month courses designed to train photographers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
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.
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