Thursday, March 2, 2017

Peter Magubane – A message to the world

Michael - Thursday

Peter Sexford Magubane

FotoZA gallery exhibition in Johannesburg
Picture Jonathan Everitt
Last month Johannesburg saw the 1976 Soweto uprising through the lens of Peter Magubane – one of the very few black photographers capturing the scenes in the townships for the press. Indeed, he was one of the few newspaper photographers of any sort because the press was banned from the areas of those events and heavily censored. Someone who was obviously a press photographer would be instantly removed – none too gently.

Magubane blended in, and never accepted that any scene or event was off limits whatever the law or the danger. Running backwards from a group of marching youths at the start of the uprising to get pictures such as the one above, he was angrily stopped by the young men. Recalling that event, he said: “When I got to Soweto that morning, these youngsters would not allow us to take pictures of them. I told them that listen: this is a struggle, a struggle without documentation is not a struggle. Let them capture this, let them take pictures of your struggle then you have won”. After that he was allowed to continue with his job—sending a message to the world about what was happening in South Africa.

The bread camera
When faced with a location where photography was forbidden, he would hide his camera in a loaf of bread or an empty milk carton and pretend to eat or drink when he took a picture. But he couldn’t make the police see reason the way he had with the young men. They had no interest in the struggle being documented; they wanted it played down, ignored, denied. On one occasion he was shot in a skirmish, he was often beaten, jailed without trial, and banned from taking pictures for five years. Once his nose was broken because he refused to expose his film.

But he sent his message.

The result of the film exposure incident
He was there when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and he says it was the happiest day he remembers. After that, he worked as Mandela’s personal photographer for years. With 27 books of his images published, exhibitions galore, and honorary doctorates, his work has received wide recognition.

As for the pictures, they speak for themselves.

Magubane being arrested

The headline of the newspaper page covering the dead man reads:
'This I believe as a South African'
Seeing the message at FotoZA
Picture Jonathan Everitt

Now in his eighties, Peter Magubane is still doing photography, thankfully no longer focusing on dead bodies. He tells the story of his life and work briefly and modestly in this moving video:

A fitting tribute to South African photographers at FotoZA
Picture Jonathan Everitt

Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


Upcoming Events:

8th March - Book launch at Book Lounge, Cape Town

9th  – 11th March – Wordfest, Stellenbosch


Upcoming Events:

March 9th
Scottsdale Arts presents: “Paris’ Districts”
Scottsdale Civic Center Library
Scottsdale, AZ
Free, but RSVP is recommended

March 11th -12th
Tucson Festival of Books
Tucson, AZ
Saturday, 11:30 AM, Student Union Santa Rita: “Passport to Death: Thrillers with an international flavor.” With Cara, Ausma Khan and moderator Carla Stoffle.

Sunday, 1 PM, UA Mall Tent: “Espionage Most Deadly: Myth, mystery, and the Nazi war machine.” With Cara, Andrew Gross and moderator Elizabeth Gunn.

Sunday, 2:30 PM, Student Union North Ballroom: “Chatting with Craig Johnson”: Mystery authors and friends Cara Black and Craig Johnson discuss the craft of writing and inspirations for intrigue. Ticketed event


Upcoming Event:

In two panels at Left Coast Crime in Honolulu, March 16-19

The Kizuna Coast, was the most requested mystery e-book in Shelf-E's library lending program during 2016.


Standing Still out 28th February!

Paper back of Rat Run published 28th March.


Upcoming Events:

Left Coast Crime 2017: Honolulu Havoc

Friday, March 17 @ 10:30 AM, “In Other Languages: Do translators get it right?”  panelist, moderated by Ragnar Jonasson.

Saturday, March 18 @ 11:45 AM, “Attorneys & Crime: Mouthpiece to mouthpiece resuscitation” panelist, moderated by Charles Rosenberg.

"The Olive Growers,” appears in Bound by Mystery, an anthology edited by Diane DiBiasi celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Poisoned Pen Press, out in March.


Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK and in October in USA


  1. Michael, how I wish I could have seen this exhibit. Alas, I am now ensconced at Jo'burg Airport, on my way back to Italy. I am sure Stan will fill you in on all we saw. An overlap with you in Ingwelala is the only thing that would have improved the experience. I feel as if I could fly back to Florence on my own.

    1. Yes, such a pity I missed you there! The exhibition was very moving. It reminds us when we moan about how things are now in South Africa - and we have plenty of problems - where we came from...