Ending Tue, 27th Jul 2021 19:34:00

Aspire X PLP | African Photography Auction 2021

Lot 33
Lot 33 - Ronald Ngilima (South Africa 1914-1960)


Ronald Ngilima (South Africa 1914-1960)
Portrait of a woman in front of her home, Wattville.

archival ink print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Artwork date: circa 1950s
Signature details: accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by artist's estate
Edition: number 1 from an edition of 10

Sold for R14,070
Estimated at R12,000 - R15,000

Condition Report

The overall condition is excellent.

Please note, we are not qualified conservators and these reports give our opinion as to the general condition of the works. We advise that bidders view the lots in person to satisfy themselves with the condition of prospective purchases.


archival ink print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag

Artwork date: circa 1950s
Signature details: accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by artist's estate
Edition: number 1 from an edition of 10


image size: 40 x 40 cm; sheet size: 42 x 42 cm unframed

Courtesy of the Ronald Ngilima Family.

Ronald Ngilima (1914 – 1960) was born in the Eastern Cape and moved to Gauteng in the early 1930s. Employed at Dinglers Tobacco Company, he dedicated his free hours to his trade as an ambulant photographer, cycling to various parts of Benoni. The present collection only starts in the 1950s, when he moved to a house in Wattville, big enough to set up his own photographic darkroom.

After his sudden death in 1960, his eldest son Torrance took over the photography trade for another five years, before he committed himself to his political involvement with the ANC. In subsequent years, Ronald’s wife, Sarah Ngilima, carefully kept the 25 boxes of negatives locked up in a cupboard. They re-emerged some thirty years later, in 1999, when grandson, Farrell Ngilima, rediscovered them by chance. Realising the historical value of the collection, Farrell played a pivotal role in the establishment of the collection as a public archive. The original negatives are presently stored at Historical Papers, an independent archive based at Wits University, Johannesburg.

These works are from the photographic archive of Ronald Ngilima, dating from the late 1940s until his death in 1960. In 2008, Farrell Ngilima was joined by Sophie Feyder, who was at the time a visual researcher and PhD student from Leiden University in the Netherlands. The Ronald Ngilima collection – a vernacular photographic archive – became the subject of Feider’s PhD study and several published journal articles.

Ngilima’s work has been featured in Rise and Fall of Apartheid; Just Ask!, by Akinbode Akinbiyi, Chris Dercon and Simon Njami; Commonplace, by Tamsyn Adams and Sophie Feyder; and African Photographic Archive: Research and Curatorial Strategies, edited by Christopher Morton and Darren Newbury.

The work offered on auction were included in The Other Camera exhibition and book (2014). The Other Camera was shown at the World Museum, Stockholm; Commune1, Cape Town; Centre for African Studies Gallery, University of Cape Town; and the Wits Origins Centre, Johannesburg.


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Auction: Aspire X PLP | African Photography Auction 2021, ending Tue, 27th Jul 2021

The sale, presented in partnership with the Photography Legacy Project (PLP) was the largest collection of African photography ever to come to auction.

Notable inclusions were works by Zimbabwean photographer Tamary Kudita and young award-winning woman photographer, Lee-Ann Olwage who collaborated with Belinda Qaqamba Kafassie. Emerging photographers like Kongo Astronauts collective (DRC) and the documentary imagery of Etinosa Yvonne (Nigeria) added depth and diversity, while the older generation of established practitioners like David Goldblatt, Alf Kumalo and Ernest Cole also featured.

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