African LENS-scape: Art Photography Collections

The largest collection of African photography ever put on auction will be on offer this winter when Aspire Art Auction puts the work of over 50 photographers from 14 African countries under the hammer.

Dubbed African LENS-scape: Art Photography Collections, the auction will take place Online from 20 to 27 July 2021; presented in partnership with the Photography Legacy Project (PLP), an organization established to support the digitization of photographic legacies in Africa. The auction is set to showcase a diversity of subject matter ranging from landscape to the interior, gender-based issues to surfing culture by photographers who continue to practice their craft and flourish under extreme challenges.

African LENS-scape: Art Photography Collections auction will build on the success of the first auction dedicated to African photography in 2020 - which saw impressive results across the board, including a set of Ernst Cole works from The House of Bondage which sold for over half a million rand. All eyes are trained on the lead-up to this year’s Aspire x PLP auction. New and seasoned collectors are discovering that photography is poised for impressive growth in the unfolding years, both in the primary and secondary art market.


Ernest Cole

A highlight for collectors is the creative response of photographers to the Covid 19 pandemic. This includes dramatic portraits by Lamyne M from the Ivory Coast, theatrical imagery by Jabulani Dlamini and Marc Shoul’s social documentary interventions.

Notable works on offer will include works by Zimbabwean photographer Tamary Kudita whose essay, African Victorian won the Open Photographer of the Year at the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards; Young award-winning women photographers, Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie and Lee-Ann Olwage. Their work, cross-dressers celebrates the transgender and gay communities and their fashion shoot in the surrounding townships of Cape Town won a World Press award. Emerging photographers like Kongo Astronauts collective (DRC) and the documentary imagery of Etinosa Yvonne (Nigeria) and Abno Shanan (Algeria).

The older generation of established names like David Goldblatt, Alf Kumalo, along with legendary Drum photographers Bob Gosani and Ernest Cole feature alongside contemporary photographers such as Michael Meyersfeld and David Lurie. Kenyan Mohamed Amin, a veteran documentarian who was instrumental in covering major events in East Africa from the 1960s has, along with his son Salim, established the Mohamed Amin Foundation to safeguard his legacy and make it accessible for future generations.

Award-winning photographers Graeme Williams, Ilan Godfrey, Daylin Paul and Brent Stirton share their insights and creative collaborations.

A rare collection of endangered and disappearing South African vernacular photography is also represented by Bobson Sukhdeo Mohanlall (Bobby Bobson), William Matlala and Ronald Ngilima. While this genre from West Africa has been widely seen in recent times, less exposure has been given to the South African version and its contribution to world visual culture. The archive of Ralph Ndawo, a peer of Peter Magubane and Alf Kumalo, who worked for Drum and the Rand Daily Mail has been kept by his daughter, Rachel for decades since his untimely death in 1980.

Also included in the auction are photographs by Henion Han, a Chinese-born South African who documented the Chinese community, as well as works from the archive of Lindeka Qampi.


Lindokuhle Theophilas Sobekwa

The photographers and archives represented in this exciting collection underscore the vision and spirit of the PLP to continue the digital preservation of our photographic heritage — much of which is perilously endangered — so that African photographic collections and archives may remain on the continent, be accessible and researchable for future generations.

“What’s special about this year’s collaboration is that it is a collection of self-representation. Essentially, it is Africa by Africans from 14 countries on the continent.” a quote from PLP

“The success of last year’s collaboration with the PLP corroborates the marked interest in African art and notably, photography. Aligning with the PLP again was a no-brainer for Aspire as it aligns with the business’ core mission of casting a spotlight on African artworks and in turn, building customer’s collections of value.” Ruarc Peffers, Aspire Art Auction Managing Director.


Yvonne Etinosa

Background on PLP

The Photography Legacy Project (PLP) which has been in operation since 2019 has initiated an important visual heritage project to profile the significant contribution of major South African and African photographers. It does it in a climate where there is very little or no commitment on the part of African governments to the preservation of photographic heritage, either physically or digitally. Without sustainable commitment to the preservation of photographic heritage either physically or digitally, African photographic collections and archives remain perilously endangered. The PLP’s initiative is primarily to ensure that significant collections of African photography can remain on the continent and made widely accessible for education and research. It has begun with four South African photographers (David Goldblatt, Alf Kumalo, Ernest Cole and Ruth Motau) and has developed a portal of African archives and photographers. Please see www.plparchive.com.

Further Information

-For auction information visit: www.aspireart.net
-Exhibition on view at our Cape Town gallery from 20 to 27 July, by appointment: Aspire Art Auctions 37A Somerset Road Cape Town 8001 |Appointments: +27 21 418 0765 or +27 83 283 7427
-Bidding opens on 20 July at 9 am | Bids start closing on 27 July from 6pm (lots close in 1-minute intervals) | Sale contact: Jacqui Carney jacqui@aspireart.net | +27 71 675 2991
-PLP (Photography Legacy Project) contact: Paul Weinberg auction@plparchive.com | +27 82 771 1656 www.plparchive.com

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