Tauza | Drum Magazine

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Photography loves misery, and compelling are the photos of oppression. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement in the United States was evocatively photographed, another struggle across the ocean was similarly being recorded. In South Africa’s long struggle with the Apartheid, photography played a large (if largely-unacknowledged-outside-Africa) role, thanks to a magazine called Drum.

Drum was managed by two Englishmen, both products of public schools. Jim Bailey and Anthony Sampson seemed unassuming and unimposing figures but they achieved what was never impossible: even after many other magazines had been banned for printing anti-apartheid photos, their little magazine survived. Their trick was to publicize Drum as a gossipy rag, while slipping in anti-apartheid news, stories, and photos between general interest pieces on weddings, nightlife, and movie stars. While the magazine was ambitious (and wanted to expand to other English-speaking African states), it was not a profitable enterprise. Its de facto boycott by the South African establishment at the time only made it harder, and Bailey nearly squandered all the money left by his father, the Johannesburg gold magnate Abe Bailey (who was as close as one might get to Flintheart Glomgold without being a cartoon duck).

But Drum‘s assets were in its intrepid journalists and photographers, nearly all of them from all black Jo’burg neighbourhood of Sophiatown. Many of Drum’s star photographers tried to get themselves arrested and took photos inside prisons using . One such photographer, Peter Magubane, was arrested for two years and banned from taking photographs for five years upon his release. Five years later, Magubane defiantly resumed his photojournalistic career.

Perhaps the most famous picture ever published in Drum — some have even called it the most famous picture ever published in Africa — was a photograph of prisoners doing a naked tauza dance. Tauza was a humiliating ritual that the black prisoners had to undergo when they were returning from a court appearance or a work program to ensure that they had nothing hidden in their rectums. Bailey and his reporters had known about the practice and decided that a photo of tauza would be perfect for Henry Nxumalo’s scathing first-hand story on appalling conditions inside South African prisons.

So he sent a white secretary from the office to the notorious Johannesburg prison The Fort. She posed as a photographer while an actual photographer Bob Gosani — Nxumalo’s nephew — and writer Arthur Maimane simply accompanied her as her black servants. The prison authorities paid little attention to the woman photographer from a little rag (many viewed the magazine as a Rand-equivalent of Us Weekly) and much less attention to her companions. As the result, Gosani managed to take the photo above which shocked many when published and led to some, albeit grudging and slow, reform in South African prison system.

That was in 1954 — Apartheid would remain in South Africa for the next four decades. As for Drum the destruction of Sophiatown in later that year (which would also lead a young Nelson Mandela onto the road towards armed resistance) marked an end to its creative reign. Its wonderful staff also disintegrated into fingerpointing and infighting.

Lindsaye Tshabalala’s Fiery Death

During apartheid, South Africa’s white minority government made its goal to encourage Inkatha-ANC divisions to keep its black enemies at each others’ throats. Now, in 1990, as the government of F.W. de Klerk began negotiating with Nelson Mandela’s ANC, these divisions presented a golden opportunity for some. Using the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) as their proxy, some elements within the establishment tried to destabilize the country, scuttle the negotiations, and at least delay the majority rule. Thousands of Zulus were forced out of their homes in ANC-loyal areas in Natal. The Zulus fought back violently, as police were reluctant to restore order. From July to September 1990, in one of the bloodiest clashes in modern South African history, the Zulus launched raids in the Transvaal townships, where nearly 800 were slain. In 1990 alone, over 3,000 people died as violence escalated.

A mob murder at Soweto’s Nancetield Hostel put a previously broke freelancer with obsolete cameras named Greg Marinovich on the road to international recognition. Marinovich felt as if he was “one of the circle of killers, shooting with wide-angle lens”. For the above photo of a man hacking at a burning man with a machete, Marinovich would later win a Pulitzer. A Zulu named Lindsaye Tshabalala was suspected of spying for Inkatha, and was executed by African National Congress supporters. Marinovich remembers: “This was without doubt the worst day of my life, and the trauma remains with me, despite some twenty years and a lot of coming to terms with the incident, my role and what it means to be involved in murder. This mudered happened a month after I had witnessed the one in Nancefield Hostel, and I was determined to redeem myself by not just being an observer. I neither saved him, nor redeemed myself, though at least I did not act shamefully.”

Violent nature of the image garnered ire from American editors when it was distributed via AP wire. Police approached the AP Johannesburg bureau to ask the photographer hand over his pictures so that they could identify the killers. Marinovich was convinced that this was unfair: the police did not request the pictures from Nancetield where the perpetrators are their Inkatha allies. Marinovich didn’t want to hand in his other negatives from Tshabalala murder, and fortunately for him, the police were unable to locate and subpoena one Sebastian Balic, the pseudonym Marinovich used for his photographs. He fled South Africa before further subpoenas could arrive.

The government saw the violence as an vindication of its predictions that the ANC would not be able to govern South Africa. But violence or not, apartheid was dying. In 1992, the Boipatong massacre derailed the negotiations briefly, but they resumed, and South Africa slowly crawled back from pariah-hood. In the same year, it was permitted to compete in the Olympics following the repeal of all apartheid laws the previous year. In 1993, it announced that it had permanently halted its nuclear program, whose very existence once denied vehemently. F.W. de Klerk and Mandela shared a Nobel peace prize in 1994, shortly before the all-race elections formally ended four-decade long apartheid.