BAHA Shares its Light on History
Mandela boxing – End of Round One. (Photograph: BAHA)
Bailey’s African History Archive (BAHA), which houses the largest historical photographic archives of Drum magazine and Golden City Post, has joined the Photography Legacy Project (PLP) digital platform. Founded in 1951 by Jim Bailey and Bob Crisp, in it’s heyday Drum was a groundbreaking Pan African magazine. It was deeply influenced by the picture magazine style of the time, exemplified by Life and Picture Post, and adapted that genre to an African context. Anthony Sampson, Tom Hopkinson and Sylvester Stein, all of Fleet Street pedigree, were its first editors. Jurgen Schadeberg, a young German photographer, headed up the photography department. The creative talent that emerged heralded a period of exceptional journalism and photography. Many of Drum’s writers, such as Henry Nxumalo (Mr Drum), Lewis Nkosi, Es’kia Mphahlele, Bloke Modisane, Arthur Maimane, Can Themba, and Todd Matshikiza were widely published and acclaimed. The magazine’s photographers also achieved great success, among them – Jurgen Schadeberg, Bob Gosani, G.R. Naidoo, Ranjith Kally, Peter Magubane, Alf Kumalo, and Ernest Cole.
Drum was known for its investigative journalism, coverage of the politics of the time as well as its cover girls and music stories. It seamlessly combined politics with popular culture. It was, as Mike Nicol described it in his book, A Good Looking Corpse, “a record of naivety, optimism, frustration, defiance, courage, dancing, drink, jazz, gangsters, exile and death.” Oswald Mtshali described the emerging urban consumer orientated class as, “the new Africans” who modelled themselves on the movies of the time. He added further that they, “adopted status symbols like big cars – battleships – Cadillacs, Buicks, Chryslers and Dodges.” Drum provides a window into this time, alongside photographs that chronicle the rise of apartheid and its devastating effects.
There are about 7 000 images and magazine covers that have been digitised from the archive. The legacy of the archive will continue to reveal itself as the PLP and BAHA’s current director, Prospero Bailey continue to excavate gems from this extraordinary repository of social history.
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