Photographic Extravaganza: The Indian in Drum Magazine in the 1950s Ranjith Kally: through the lens

  • Posted: May 6, 2011

The Iziko South African National Gallery acknowledges and pays tribute to veteran South African photographers by hosting two photographic exhibitions The Indian in Drum Magazine in the 1950s and Ranjith Kally: Through the lens of Durban’s veteran photographer. Both exhibitions open on 11 May 2011 at 6pm.



Have you ever heard Victoria Street being referred to as ‘Durban’s little Chicago’ or Sheriff Khan as ‘South Africa's Al Capone’? Does Benny Singh, Pumpy Naidoo, the Goodwill Lounge or the ‘Wall of Death’ mean anything to you? Well it did to a generation of hundreds of thousands on the continent, from Nigeria and Ghana in the west, to Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania in the east. At its peak, DRUM magazine distributed 450,000 copies a month as far as the Caribbean and the United States of America with stories emanating from Sophiatown, Victoria Street and District Six.

Images of child labour on the sugar farms in Natal and depictions of the living conditions in the ghettoes in Cato Manor hint at the extent of poverty. The photos also reveal a rich and varied ‘50s culture’, beyond the borders of Sophiatown. The fascinating story of golfer Papwa Sewgolum or activists like Yusuf Dadoo and Monty Naicker as well as the feud between the ‘Salots’ and the ‘Crimson League’ gangs and the pure guts and determination of woman stunt rider Amaranee Naidoo on her Harley Davidson are brought back to life via these black and white images, curated from the DRUM archives.

DRUM magazine is better known for its association with photographers such as Jürgen Schadeberg, Peter Magubane, Alf Kumalo and Bob Gosani – all represented by photos in this exhibition. It was the intention to expand on this work and recognise the talents of figures such as Ranjith Kally and G. R. Naidoo, less known photographers in the South African landscape, who were based at the DRUM office in Durban.

The exhibition will be on show from 11 May until 14 August 2011.

Enquiries: Pam Warne, 021 481 3956,


This exhibition profiles the work of Ranjith Kally, who started taking photographs while he was working at a shoe factory in Durban. Born in 1925 in Isipingo, he came upon a Kodak Postcard camera at a jumble sale in 1946, which he bought for six pence. “I was consumed by my newly found interest in photography and spent almost all my free time pursuing the art form”, he remembers.

This chance discovery was to lead him into a lifetime career as a photographer working first for The Leader newspaper and then later for DRUM magazine, where he worked for a total of 26 years. In 1952, Kally won third prize in an international competition held in Japan out of a field of 150,000 entries, and in 1967 he was selected for membership to the Royal Photographic Society, London, for a selection of portraits.

Portraiture has always been his strength, allowing him to successfully capture the likes of the notable personalities such as Chief Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Miriam Makeba, Alan Paton and visiting entertainers such as Tina Turner.

Kally’s work was little known until his first solo exhibition held in Johannesburg in 2004. The exhibition brought Kally and his photographs national attention. Kally is now represented in the major public collections in South Africa.

The exhibition will be on show from 11 May until 11 September 2011.

Enquiries: Joe Dolby, 021 481 3966,

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