Kumalo museum disgrace

By Lindile Sifile Time of article published Oct 17, 2017

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The legacy of veteran photographer Alf Kumalo could go down the drain as hundreds of rare photos he captured during the apartheid era gather dust at his now crumbling museum in Soweto.

What was meant to be the pride of Soweto for aspiring photographers and art collectors when it opened in 2001, the Alf Kumalo Museum in Diepkloof has over the years degenerated into a nyaope den, a hideout for criminals and an eyesore.

Saturday will mark five years since Kumalo died from cancer. The Star visited the famous museum this week and found it in a shameful state. His family blamed delays in the execution of Kumalo’s estate.

Hundreds of iconic pictures from the apartheid era, past celebrities to the 2010 World Cup were lying on the floor, while others were torn. The equipment, which included negatives and a vintage camera, was gathering dust in the adjacent darkroom. The leaking roof has stained the ceiling.

The building has been burgled twice and a hard drive with thousands of pictures that were being processed was stolen. The museum and its photography school closed soon after Kumalo’s death.

“This place was a sorry sight and in a very bad condition when I moved in a few years ago. Nyaope boys and homeless people lived here,” said Stanley More, who was asked by the Kumalo family to look after the building. He converted one room into a bedroom.

More had spent some of his own money fixing the building, including maintaining the yard.

“When I moved in those palm trees were covering the entire building, and the ceiling was starting to cave in. It had not been looked after. Even Alf’s children hardly come here anymore. The only ones who do are people who want to shoot films or music videos,” said More.

The family’s executor Tebogo Kwape, of Kwape Attorneys, was shocked that more pictures were still at the museum. “As far as I know, we collected every piece of work for safekeeping. I was there. Where are these new ones coming from?” he asked.

The museum was funded by an Italian-based NGO.

Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation spokesperson Nomazwe Ntlokwana was unsure yesterday if her office would step in to rescue the project, but promised to consult officials in her office.

Freelance photographer Paballo Thekiso started his photography career at the museum when it opened and later became a tutor there before working for various media companies. He remembers the museum as being well equipped with two darkrooms, a studio, and lessons which were free and given by highly qualified photographers.

“Alf was a big name. Everybody wanted to help out because of his stature. That place is close to my heart. It’s sad to see bra Alf’s work die like him. Unfortunately, my hands are tied because of the estate matter, which has not yet been finalised,” said Thekiso.

Kumalo’s son Sizwe, who helped his father run the museum, conceded that it was malfunctioning, mainly due to theft and delays in the execution of his father’s estate, which would help to bring it back to life.

In his last will, seen by The Star, Kumalo left the museum to his six children from his first marriage. He instructed his son Mzilikazi, from his second marriage, to manage it. His estate, including five properties, life policies, two vehicles, photographs and shares in Umnotho weSizwe Group, was divided among his children and his last wife.

Alf Kumalo

“We have been struggling to get my father’s estate finalised since his death. The executor tells us that he has been given the runaround by Umnotho and that he cannot distribute half the estate without knowing the value of the shares my father has in Umnotho. There is nothing I can do about the museum until that process is completed,” said Sizwe.

A company search conducted by The Star confirmed that Kumalo was one of Umnotho's directors. Only three individuals are still active from the 19 the company originally had.

“It annoys me that people, including family members, assume that I could have stolen my father’s estate, because I’m the only one who has been talking to lawyers on behalf of the family,” said Sizwe.

Kwape said the delay was being caused mainly by getting rates clearance certificates for two properties from the City of Joburg before making transfers to beneficiaries and getting evaluation of Kumalo’s shares in Umnotho.


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