Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Nelson Mandela: Man of the People" Photographs by Peter Magubane

September 18th - November 8th

Spruill Gallery is honored to present an exhibition by internationally acclaimed photographer Peter Magubane. In celebration of the 90th birthday of the former South African President Nelson Mandela, this exhibition features over one hundred photographs spanning five decades, documenting important milestones in Mandela’s life as well as major moments in South African history both pre and post apartheid.

"Magubane’s Nelson Mandela: Man of the People is a fitting tribute to the life and times of one of the greatest historic figures of the 20th century," said Howard Dodson, Director of the Schomburg Center in New York City. "Magubane’s photographic record of more than fifty years reminds us of humankind’s indebtedness to Nelson Mandela and why all the world is celebrating his 90th birthday." Man of the People: A Photographic Tribute to Nelson Mandela, a companion book to the exhibition is currently available at the Spruill Gallery. The exhibition opens to the public on Friday, September 19 and is on view through November 8, 2008. The opening reception, Thursday, September 18, 2008 from 6:00 – 9:00 is free and open to the public.
Prior to being elected President of the new, democratic South Africa in 1994, Nelson Mandela was a staunch leader of the anti-apartheid movement, serving among other things as co-founder and President of the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC) and as President of the ANC in 1991. A lawyer by training, he was first and foremost a freedom fighter. Banned for his political activities in the 1950s, he was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 and spent twenty-six years of his life as a prisoner of the South African apartheid regime. His release in 1990 marked the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa and his election as President of The Republic of South Africa in 1994 started post-apartheid South Africa on the road to democracy, freedom and dignity for all people.

Photographer Peter Magubane met Nelson Mandela over fifty years ago. He took one of his earliest pictures of him when Mandela was a member of the ANC Youth League in 1955. At the time, Mandela was serving the last months of a two year ban. Magubane also documented Mandela’s treason trial which began in 1959. Over the years, Magubane photographed Mandela at different phases of his life as political activist, prisoner, family man, leader, Nobel laureate, President and statesman. An activist in the anti-apartheid struggle, himself, Magubane was also banned and imprisoned on several occasions. His photographic record of the anti-apartheid movement captured and preserved some of the seminal moments in the struggle.
On display together for the first time ever, this collection features over 100 photographs beginning in the mid-1950s and extending to the death of Mandela’s son Makgatho.

Peter Magubane is an internationally acclaimed photographer from Johannesburg, South Africa whose work has been published and exhibited all over the world. He embarked on his long and distinguished career in 1954, when he joined Drum magazine taking him to the heart of the anti-apartheid defiance campaigns and treason trials. Since then he has worked for Rand Daily Mail, Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine. In 1969, he was detained for 586 days in solitary confinement and was subsequently banned as a photographer for five years. He returned to his work in time to bear witness to the uprising of young school children that began on June 16, 1976. The dramatic images of the struggle for liberation in South Africa are published in several of his books. Books such as his June 16 1976, Fruit of Fear, and his first book of photographs, Black as I am which was accompanied by poems written by a young Zindzi Mandela, were banned in South Africa.

For his dedication and outstanding contribution to the world of photography, Peter Magubane has received numerous accolades, among them: the Mother Jones-Leica Lifetime Achievement Award; Martin Luther King Luthuli Award; Fellowship by the Tom Hopkinson School of Journalism and Cultural Studies; Honorary Doctorates from UNISA, Tshwane University of Technology, Rhodes University, and the University of Fort Hare. Peter Magubane was the first black South African to receive an award for his photography in 1958, when he received 1st and 3rd prizes in the South Africa Best Picture of the Year Contest.

On receiving the Order for Meritorious Service from Former President Nelson Mandela in 1999, President Mandela said: "For his bravery and courage during the dark days of apartheid, Peter became a beacon of hope not only to the thousands of journalists all over the world but also to millions of people across our country. His commitment to photojournalism helped pave the way to transformation in South Africa, and such efforts are, needless to say, worthy of international recognition." Particularly in post-apartheid South Africa, Peter Magubane focuses his lens on the people and cultures that live within South Africa.

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