Mr.M.T. Ramakatane was born in 1937 in Lesotho, where, for over 50 years, he ran a photographic studio where many of the small nation had their portraits taken. He was also the official portraitist of the Basotho royal family. In 1960 he photographed the Sharpeville Massacre in in South Africa, where he was shot and left for dead. When his family identified him at the mortuary, he suddenly regained consciousness. He was an activist in both South Africa and Lesotho.
An outbuilding close to his home in Lesotho which housed his archive burnt down and much of the material was destroyed.
A grant from the Modern Endangered Archival Program in conjunction with the UCLA Library enabled the process of digitisation of what remained of this valuable archive. This archive is an impressive record of the social history of Lesotho, and an exemplar of vernacular photography in Africa. Collaboration with Mr Ramakatane, his family, and the Lesotho National Museum, enabled the Photography Legacy Project to preserve the ‘best of’ his archive. The collection comprises about 3 000 scans (mostly studio portraits), his photographs of the royal family, social events Mr Ramakatane documented, and his own family photographs. The PLP worked with a team from Lesotho where in depth-skills were shared in all aspects of digital curation. Hardware, software and skills were left in the country to ensure that there is capacity to carry out projects like this in the future. The Ramakatane archive is an invaluable contribution to African visual heritage. A permanent exhibition of photographs from the collection will be shown at the Lesotho National Museum, where Ramakatane’s physical archive is also housed.