Alfred Khumalo

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Alfred Khumalo

Biographical information


Journalist and photographer for Drum magazine

First name: 
Last name: 
Date of birth: 
5 September 1930
Location of birth: 
Alexandra, Johannesburg, Gauteng (then Transvaal), South Africa
Date of death: 
21 October 2012

Alfred "Alf" Khumalo was born in Johannesburg and matriculated at the WiIberforce Institute in Evaton.

Khumalo began his working career as a journalist in 1951, freelancing for Bantu World, where he took photographs to illustrate his stories. In 1956, Khumalo found a permanent position at the Golden City Post.

As a young man, Khumalo was intrigued by the impact of pictures, and their ability to “freeze moments in time”. Khumalo had experienced this ability as a child, and this childhood obsession encouraged him to pursue a career in photography.

In the course of an illustrious career as a documentary photographer for over fifty years, Khumalo has documented the life and times of a changing South Africa. He has photographed both quotidian and historic events, which will benefit future generations.

During his time as a documentary photographer, Khumalo often documented events inter alia. Such events included the Treason Trial, the Rivonia Trial, trade union activity in the 1970s, and the rise of the Black Consciousness Movement.

Khumalo also photographed several other historically prominent events. These include the Student Uprising of 1976, the 1980s State of Emergency, the un-banning of the liberation movements, the Codesa talks, the first democratic elections and the inauguration of South Africa’s first democratic government. Khumalo was privileged to witness and record these extraordinary events, despite the fact that this often lead to detention, arrests and harassment.

Khumalo’s work has been published in both local and international newspapers, for example The Observer (UK), New York Times, New York Post, The Sunday Independent (UK). In September 2004, Khumalo’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, which was well received by critics.

Khumalo, despite being older, still works professionally. To ensure that future South African photographers have the adequate means to improve their skills, Khumalo opened a photographic school in Diepkloof, Soweto.

This school provides all aspiring photographers with the necessary training, and ensures that are not hindered by a lack of opportunity. A nine-month course has therefore been designed to educate photographers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and is supported by companies like Daimler Chrysler and IBM.

Khumalo's body of work is a testament to his perseverance as a photographer during the struggle, and his dedication. His photography is representative of the resistance that gained South Africa its freedom, and is displayed in the Alfred Khumalo Museum in Soweto.

To honour his contribution to documentary photography and journalism in South Africa, the South African Government bestowed Alf Khumalo with the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver, at the National Orders awards on 19 October 2004.

Khumalo is survived by his wife Elizabeth and two children.

• Alf Khumalo (2007) [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2009]
• Interview: Alfred Khumalo [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2009]
• Majavu, M (2004) “Alf Khumalo: 5 decades in photos” [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2009]
• “The National Orders Awards, October 2004” [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 March 2009]
• Alf Kumalo wins 2005 Nat Nakasa Award [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2009]

Last updated : 02-Nov-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011