South African photojournalist Peter Magubane, known for documenting the violence of the apartheid regime, died on Monday, January 1 at the age of 91. He was Nelson Mandela’s official photographer from his release in 1990 until his arrival as President of South Africa in 1994.
Peter Magubane, a black South African photojournalist who documented the violence of the racist apartheid regime for decades, including the 1976 student uprising in Soweto, died on Monday aged 91. “He died peacefully today, surrounded by his family”announced the representative body of the South African press SANEF.
It was “Conscientious photographer, hard work”his daughter Fikile commented on the SABC public channel. “He was passionate, his work was his top priority”. South African Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa also paid tribute to him in a tweet: “South Africa has lost an outstanding freedom fighter, storyteller and photographer. Peter Magubane fearlessly documented the injustices of apartheid.”
Nelson Mandela’s official photographer
Peter Magubane was born in 1932 in the Sophiatown area of Johannesburg, a place where black residents were driven out by the arrival of new white residents. During this period, in 1955, Peter Magubane begins his career as a photographer. He joined, initially as a driver, a fashion magazine Drum, dedicated to black urban culture. It will document daily life and key moments in the struggle against apartheid, the segregationist regime that raged in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s.
The photographer would document, among other things, the police repression in Sharpeville in 1960 and also the Rivonia trial in 1963. In 1990, after the release of Nelson Mandela, an icon of the struggle against apartheid, Peter Magubane became his official photographer until his election, four years later later, as the first black president at the dawn of democracy in the country.
586 days in prison
One of his most famous photographs is from 1956. It shows a little white girl sitting on a bench marked “reserved for Europeans”. Her black nanny sits on the other side of this bench in suburban Johannesburg. Peter Magubane published his photographs in approximately fifteen books, several of which were censored under apartheid.
Arrested in 1969 while photographing protesters outside the prison where activist Winnie Mandela was imprisoned, he spent 586 days in solitary confinement in prison and was sentenced to stop all photographic activity for five years after his release. He was arrested again in 1971 and imprisoned for many months for disobeying this order. Pursued by the police, which he thwarted as much as possible, he reported widely on the student uprising in Soweto in 1976, for which he took some of the most remarkable photographs that made him famous around the world.