Lost and Found

Pass raid, circa 1965, Johannesburg. One of the found South African negatives of Ernest Cole's archive thought to have been lost.
Pass raid, circa 1965, Johannesburg. One of the found South African negatives of Ernest Cole's archive thought to have been lost.

The negatives of Ernest Cole, up until recently thought to have been lost, was handed over to the Leslie Matliasane, Chairperson of the Ernest Cole Family Trust in 2017. This put an end to speculation and intrigue about what happened to Ernest Cole’s negatives while he was in exile.

The PLP is happy to announce it will be part of a collaborative project between the Ernest Cole Family Trust, Magnum Photos, and Wits Historical Papers to digitize these ‘lost’ negatives and make them available for research and education purposes. So please keep watching the website as material is uploaded.

Ernest Cole documented the lives of black South Africans living under Apartheid in the early 1960’s. He then left the country at 26 years old and published and his photographs were published in a book called House of Bondage, first in 1967 in USA and then in 1968 in Britain. It had a major impact on the world. It covered life from the perspective of a black South African and exposed the vicious, inhuman Apartheid system in all its manifestations. House of Bondage became a reference point for the world with regard to the struggle against Apartheid system. David Goldblatt said of Cole, “He wasn’t just brave. He wasn’t just courageous. He was a supremely fine photographer.”

Cole died at the time Nelson Mandela and others were released from jail and never had the opportunity to return to the country of his birth. In honouring his legacy, the Ernest Cole Award was established. Daylin Paul, the latest recipient of the award will launch a book and exhibition of his work, Broken Land at KZNSA Gallery, Durban on 3rd September from where it will travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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