Mr.M.T. Ramakatane, born in 1937 in Lesotho, is regarded, as the portraitist of country, which is socio-economically linked to South Africa. For over 50 years he ran photographic studios where many of the small nation had their portraits taken. He was also the official portraitist of the royal family. He photographed Sharpeville, while in South Africa, was shot and left for dead. When his family identified him at the mortuary, he suddenly became conscious. He was an activist in both countries. An outbuilding housing his archive burnt down a few years ago. This archive is one of the most impressive records of the country’s social history and an exemplar of vernacular photography in Africa.
A grant from the Modern Endangered Archival Program in conjunction with the UCLA Library enabled a process of digitisation of this valuable archive. Collaboration with Mr Ramakatane, his family and the Lesotho National Museum enabled the preservation of the ‘best of’ his archive. It comprises about 3 000 scans (mostly studio portraits), his work on 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 do future projects like this. The Ramakatane archive is an invaluable contribution to African visual heritage. A permanent exhibition will be shown at the Lesotho National Museum, where his physical archive is also housed.