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Drum magazine turns 60

Photojournalist Alf Kumalo who was part of the Drum team in the early years was honoured with Drum's Photojournalist Alf Kumalo who was part of the Drum team in the early years was honoured with Drum's "living Legend" award. Kumalo's photograph "A Mother Remembers", above, shows Nelson Mandela's mother and his children looking at a portrait of the imprisoned leader.

Drum honours legendary South Africans

Mediaonline reports that, “In honour of its 60 year history, and its undoubted importance in the lives of so many South Africans, the awards, DRUM honoured legends, past and present, with a selection of prestigious awards that went to icons in the South African history.”

Posthumous, in recognition of a DRUM legend who is no longer with us – Dolly Rathebe, the first ever DRUM pin-up girl.

Living Legend, a legend still delivering the DRUM beat – Legendary photographer, Alf Khumalo.

Timeless Beauty, always and forever a favourite – jazz musician Thandi Klaasen.

Rising Star, someone who has inspired us and readers – actress and singer Thembi Seete.

Ubuntu Award, where we say “siyabonga” to those who have made a difference – Gcina Mhlope

Couple To Look Up To, an award to show that we believe family is the backbone of our society – musicians Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu.

Behind The Scenes, in recognition of those who are never in the limelight but whose work has an impact on our lives – creator of the much loved soapie Generations, Mfundi Vundla.

DRUM icon, someone whose work and sacrifice is our heritage – the legendary Winnie Mandela.

Source: Mediaonline website

Drum cover, May 1956 Drum cover, May 1956
Africa Media Online has alerted us to the fact that Drum magazine turns 60 this month!

Commemorative edition to be published in November 2011

Media24 Weekly Magazines will also be publishing DRUM 60th, a glossy commemorative magazine.

“DRUM 60 will bring together all the elements that make this title one of the best in South Africa, highlighting not only important moments in the magazine’s and South Africa’s history but also showcasing the characters behind DRUM. It is a fusion of experience and experiences,” says DRUM editor, Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa.

“I have ensured our new generation of authors, journalists and social commentators have been well represented in the magazine. For me it is very important to illustrate how DRUM journalists of old inspired and motivated my peers to be what we are. Zukiswa Wanner, Lebo Mashile, Mike Nicol and Simphiwe Danaare just some of the bylines and names that lent us their voices in the compilation of this issue.”

Readers can look forward to stories about legendary journalists such as Henry Nxumalo, Nat Nakasa and Can Themba. There are articles about the issues the magazine has covered from life in Sophiatown to forced removals and apartheid race laws to memorable short stories and photo stories. And, of course, there are reprints of classic DRUM covers featuring legends such as Dolly Rathebe.Coupled with stunning pictures by photographers such as Peter Magubane, Alf Kumalo and Jürgen Schadeberg, this publication is a keepsake for DRUM readers.

DRUM 60 will be available in stores countrywide by the end of November.

Source: Drum magazine website

Drum was first published in Cape Town in March 1951 under the title African Drum by Bob Crisp. This venture was not successful and the magazine moved to Johannesburg in Sepetmebr 1951 under a new publisher, Jim Bailey. Drum flourished, eventually achieving a circulation of 400,000 copies distributed not only in South Africa but also in Ghana, Nigeria and East Africa.

Speaking of the his experiences as editor of Drum in Johannesburg in the 1950s, Anthony Sampson says, “Of all South Africa;s cities, Johannesburg was the chief magnet. The gold mines below and around the city absorbed thousands of contract workers. They arrived from the rural areas to be kept in batchelor compounds. Then, months later they were sent back to their homes when their contracts expired. This world existed alongside a much more sophisticated black Johannesburg of shebeens, dancehalls, snappy dressers - where life was lived fast, and on the streets. And it was this world which provided much of the creative talent in the magazine Drum.”

The few staff members in the early years read like a roll call of South African greats: Henry Nxumalo the sports editor, later known as “Mr. Drum”, Todd Matshikiza, a writer who was celebrated for his wit, and employed as the music reviewer, Can Themba, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Nat Nakasa, Lewis Nkosi, Doc Bikitsha and a host of other writers contributed to the magazine. Jurgen Schadeberg, an investigative photographer, later became the photo editor of the magazine. Bob Gosani who joined Drum as a messenger and became one of the magazine’s best photographers. Peter Magubane was hired as a driver transferred to the photographic department where he was joined by Ernest Cole, Alf Kumalo, Victor Xashimba, Gopal Naransamy, Chester Maharaj, GR Naidoo and others.

In his forward to Jurgen Schadeberg’s book, Softown Blues: Images from the black ‘50s, Arthur Maimane explains how Drum walked a fine line in dealing with the subject of apartheid. ” Drum could not confront apartheid head-on because it would be banned - as other publications were to be over the following years. The strategy it developed, starting in its first birthday issue. was to expose the evils of the racist system without actually condemning official policy.”

Doc Bikitsha, also writing in Schadeberg’s publication speaks of the ‘golden age of black journalism’ and the way in which the writers of the 50s recorded the ‘glory and triumph’ of an age when, ” black people underwent changes for the good that surpassed anything in their history so far”. He also draws attention to the serious side of this ‘enlightened period’ saying that, ” politically we witnessed the emergence of characters like Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Duma Nokwe. Robert Sobukwe and many more with outstanding leadership traits.”

While Drum opposed racism and apartheid, some of the key events of the Liberation Struggle were not published. Jim Bailey did not approve the publication of any reports or photographs of the Sharpeville massacre, nor the terrible work and living conditions of migrant workers on the mines and the magazine has been criticised in recent years for not reporting widely enough on the political events of the time.

In the 1980s Drum was sold to the media giant Nasionale Pers and although it still exists and is widely sold, it’s not the magazine it once was.

The Baileys African History Archive which houses the Drum collection contains a wealth of information from politics to culture and complexities of the vast Anglophone African nations it includes the following:

Drum: South Africa 1951-1984 Post: South Africa 1955-1970
Drum: East Africa 1957-1992 Trust: West Africa 1971-1980
Drum: West Africa 1954-1958 Trust: East Africa 1971 - 1980
Drum: Nigeria 1958 -1982 True Love: South Africa 1980 - 1984
Drum: Ghana 1958-1972 True Love: East Africa 1980-1992
Drum: Central Africa 1960-1967 City Press: South Africa 1982-1984

To view, or purchase images from the Drum archive see Bailey’s African History Archives website or the Africamediaonline website

For more information on the history of Drum see the South African History Online website.


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  • I’ll try to put this to good use immedialtey.

    By Fantine on 23/06/2011
  • Is it possible to get back copies od DRUM MAGAZINE between September 1960 to October 1960?

    By Segun Akintunde on 13/06/2013
  • Please contact Bailey’s African History Archives they should be able to assist

    By Jo-Anne Duggan on 17/06/2013
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