Priya Ramrakha – A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 Navigating Colonial Disentanglement

Johannesburg, 26 September 2017. The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), University of Johannesburg (UJ), proudly presents a seminal exhibition of powerful images by renowned African photojournalist, Priya Ramrakha, chronicling his exploration of anti-colonial and post-independence struggles. Showcasing a collection of photographs illuminating watershed moments and political movements in Africa and the Unites States, A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968, offers audiences a chance to rethink key political and historical narratives, and revisit the struggles, celebrations and lived experiences of the independence era in Africa.


Kenyans detained in camps by British colonial administration during the State of Emergency, circa 1953, Kenya

Exposing often untold stories and painful sacrifices of liberation struggles across the continent, and internationally, A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 confronts persistent absences in established historical narratives, whereby experiences of decolonial struggle have been problematically marginalised. This comprehensive survey of recently uncovered images tracks the global travels of pioneering Kenyan photojournalist Priya Ramrakha in the 1950s and 1960s. Ramrakha’s sensitive chronicling of major political figures and events, as well as testimonies of racial oppression and political resistance, bears witness to a range of experiences, collaborations and movements that shaped the future of postcolonial Africa. Revealing a number of previously unpublished images, the exhibition speaks to an international dialogue around civil rights activism and independence struggle – the outworking of which continues to be felt in contemporary dialogues and activism around race, gender and decolonisation.


Friends celebrating on Kenya’s day of Independence 12 December 1963 Nairobi Kenya



Born into an activist journalistic family, Ramrakha contributed to publications around the world as one of the first African photojournalists for the prestigious American TIME and LIFE magazines. In Kenya, he also photographed for his anti-colonial newspapers, as well as for the East African edition of the renowned South African DRUM magazine. Ramrakha’s humanistic photographic oeuvre captures moments with influential figures such as Tom Mboya, Jomo Kenyatta, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Martin



Rev Dr Martin Luther King
Jr California 1960.

Luther King Jr, Malcom X, John F Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and the British Royal Family. A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 traces these historical occasions as well as the everyday engagements, contributions and political aspirations of African communities, providing vivid social documentation that sheds light on the profound, ongoing impact of colonisation.

Shravan Vidyarthi, exhibition co-curator and filmmaker of award-winning documentary African Lens – the Story of Priya Ramrakha:  “For decades, Africa had been portrayed through the colonial lens by Western photojournalists. Priya became one of the first photographers to document Africa — its people and its politics — from an African perspective. Finding Priya’s lost photographs meant several things, it meant that his work could live on and it also meant that I could tell Priya’s story, because even though I didn’t have any recordings of Priya’s voice, finding the photographs was, in many ways, like finding his voice.”



Co-Curator Erin Haney:  “A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 affords an opportunity to both revisit narratives and experiences of colonial disentanglement, as well as to consider the ethical imperatives, dilemmas and implied politics of their documentation.

“Unearthing these visual archives offers opportunities for viewers to rethink the current political and social climate through the lens of history. The images allow for a journey into a shared history and reveal expressions of resistance and freedom, and the sustained anti-colonial narrative rooted in a subversive and largely unacknowledged history of Africa.”

A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 premieres at the FADA Gallery, UJ, on 5 October to 1 November 2017, free of charge to all. This significant new exhibition presents a platform to raise awareness around the history, experiences and origins of Black Consciousness and African liberation, giving audiences a chance to navigate post-colonialism and reflect on present day challenges.

All photos by Priya Ramrakha, courtesy of the Priya Ramrakha Foundation.

Fast Facts:

Priya Ramrakha – A Pan-African Perspective 1950-1968 exhibition open to all.

Entrance is FREE of charge.

WHEN: Thursday 5 October to Wednesday 1 November 2017

Tuesdays to Fridays: 09h00 to 16h00

Saturdays: 09h00 to 13h00


WHERE: FADA Gallery at the entrance to the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture building at the University of Johannesburg, 17 Bunting Road, Johannesburg

FADA Gallery is situated on the Bunting Road Campus (in between Egoli Gas and the SABC).


“Inhabiting the Frame” Colloquium Programme


As part of the exhibition, a colloquium programme will take place on Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 October 2017 from 09H00 to 17H00 at the FADA Gallery and will include exhibition walkabouts, panel discussions, screenings and presentations.


About VIAD / University of Johannesburg

The Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD) is a nationally and internationally respected research facility, dedicated to deepening research and critical commentary around the overarching thematic of identity construction in visual representation. All research generated, whether in written form, or otherwise, addresses identity construction and its readings, across both contemporary and historical contexts. These constructions are identified, read and analysed in relation to visual practice, visual representation and visual culture. While emphasis is placed on the construction of visual identities in a contemporary South African context, this context is considered in relation to its positioning as part of the African continent and the global south.


About Erin Haney

As a curator and researcher, Erin Haney collaborates with artists and writers interested in photography, media histories, politics and creative institutions. Recent projects include the pioneering 3PA workshop, Porto-Novo, Benin, and the exhibition Sailors and Daughters, which was supported by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. Professor Haney teaches photo, film, art and new media histories at the Corcoran School of Art & Design, Washington D.C, and is a Research Associate at the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre (VIAD), University of Johannesburg, and at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Haney has published widely, authoring Photography and Africa (Reaktion, 2010), and contributing articles and essays to Africa is a Country, Hyperallergic, Public Culture, Critical Addresses and Autograph (to name a few). She is presently working with Shravan Vidyarthi on an edited volume on the life and work of Priya Ramrakha.


About Shravan Vidyarthi

Shravan Vidyarthi is a filmmaker and photographer based in New York and Nairobi. His documentary film African Lens – the Story of Priya Ramrakha won best African Film at the 2008 Zanzibar International Film Festival, and again at the Kenya International Film Festival. Vidyarthi’s films have screened on PBS and at MoMA, and have featured in The New York Times. He has been a guest speaker at the National Museum of African Art, the Smithsonian Institution, New York University, Columbia University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland. Vidyarthi studied English, French and African Studies at the University of Georgetown, Washington D.C, and has an MA in Media Studies from the New School, New York. Vidyarthi is currently working with Erin Haney on an edited volume on the life and work of Priya Ramrakha.