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Archive of studio photographs from Apartheid-era South Africa offered at Bonhams
Untitled, Z.J.S Ndimande & Sons. 29 July 1976. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- An archive of images taken from the photographer’s studio of Z.J.S Ndimande and Sons in Greytown during Apartheid will be offered at Bonhams Modern and Contemporary African Art sale on Wednesday 18 March. The studio, which opened in 1940, was later forbidden from operating under the owner’s name as Greytown (now the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa) was considered a white district during the regime. The 1,126 loose images and four albums of men, women and children posing for Ndimande in his studio have an estimate of £6,000-9,000.

Z.J.S Ndimande began his family-run photography studio in the 1940s with his son, Richard Ndimande, who later took over the business from his father in 1968. The studio was located on the corner of Bell Street and York Street, attached to the family’s hairdressing business in Greytown.

However, in 1968, the government implemented a policy of 'resettlement', and the studio was forced to leave town under the regulations of the Group Areas Act; a parliamentary act which assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections in urban areas. Richard’s studio relocated to a semi-rural township outside Greytown called Enhlalagahe but here the business struggled. Crime in Enhlalagahe was rife and customers were required to get a permit to visit the town. It was here in Richard’s studio in the '70s that this series of striking black and white photographs were taken.

Writing for the spring issue of Bonhams Magazine, journalist, broadcaster and curator, Ekow Eshun, said “Richard Ndimande’s pictures were taken under circumstances of duress. But they have a pride and self-assertion to them that belies the context within which they were produced. Within the confides of the studio a state of utopia reigns, free from the politics of race and space that governed daily life for black South Africans.”

After 15 years, in 1983, Richard decided to move the business back to Greytown, this time under the new official ownership of the white cover name, Frederick (Bob) Harris. It was then that Richard switched from using black and white to colour film.

Bonhams Modern and Contemporary African Art specialist, Helene Love-Allotey, said “Photographic studios in apartheid South Africa were one of the few outlets where people could express themselves. This extremely rare archive of images offers a glimpse at the fun and creative flair that remained within ordinary life, even under such difficult circumstances.”

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