Ramrakha’s iconic images defied stereotype, censorship and editorial demand, capturing key moments from segregated colonial oppression in his home in Kenya, and tying those to moments of black struggle and surprising solidarities in the US in the 1960s. Ramrakha’s pan-African lens revealed optimisms and allegiances across national lines, and witnessed allied moments of political resistance by everyday people and major political figures in Africa and the US, from John F Kennedy and Miriam Makeba, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. His photographs afford new insights into the ethical role that African photographers in particular played in capturing pivotal moments in global history. These stories are rarely told–precisely because their photographs and archives have been obscured or lost–and nearly all remain unpublished. These subtle images, and his long-obscured body of work, complicate our visions of the continent and the stories still to be told and remembered.
Priya Ramrakha (b.Nairobi, 1935 – d.Nigeria, 1968) one of Kenya’s first photojournalists, and one of the first Africans to photograph for Life and Time, documented Africa and the US in the 1950s and 1960s for the world press.
Hailing from one of Kenya’s first journalistic families, Ramrakha immersed himself in documentary photography at a young age. In the 1950’s, he documented the Mau Mau independence movement from the front line, and the rise of Tom Mboya, the young politician who spearheaded Kenya’s freedom movement.
Ramrakha’s early images of Kenyan leaders helped transform photography from a tool of colonial propaganda into a potent weapon against imperial rule.
Following independence in 1963, Ramrakha covered conflict in Zanzibar, Congo, Rhodesia, Aden, and Nigeria.
In 1968, a CBS film crew captured Ramrakha’s final moments, in crossfire between Nigerian soldiers and Biafran rebels. Ramrakha was shot, his camera fell to the ground, and he died while CBS correspondent Morley Safer tried to carry him to safety.
Believed lost for 40 years, many of Priya Ramrakha’s prints were found buried in a Nairobi garage. The work is a unique collection of street photography and journalistic work from across Africa and the US in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Priya Ramrakha Foundation is dedicated to preserving the work and legacy of one of Kenya’s first photojournalists.
Priya Ramrakha – the recovered archive
Featuring: Priya Ramrakha
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