Iconic Drum magazine turns 60

Ray Maota

Thandie Klassen (middle) being greeted
by jazz supremo Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse,
receives the Timeless Beauty honour
from musician Arthur Mafokate.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife
of former president Nelson Mandela,
received the Drum Icon honour.
(Images: Drum)

• Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa
  Drum: Editor
  +27 11 322 0877

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The world-famous South African magazine Drum, which gave early momentum to the African nationalist movement and produced renowned journalists and photographers, has turned 60 years old.

The publication celebrated its coverage of six decades of South African history at a ceremony at Emperor’s Palace, east of Johannesburg, on 26 October 2011.

Guests who attended the event included Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe, and fashion designer and socialite Uyanda Mbuli.

The celebrations honoured local legends who were and still are an integral part of the magazine. A glossy commemorative edition will hit the shelves at the end of November.

Current Drum editor Makhosazana Zwane-Siguqa said: “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 and South Africa’s history, but also showcasing the characters behind Drum. It is a fusion of experience and experiences.”

Zwane-Siguqa added that the new generation of writers have been well represented in the commemorative edition to show how they have been influenced and inspired by Drum‘s first team of legendary contributors, including Henry Nxumalo, Nat Nakasa, Ezekiel “Es’kia” Mphahlele, Can Themba and Mike Nicol.

Featured work from the new Drum generation comes from author Zukiswa Wanner, poet and author Lebo Mashile, and singer and poet Simphiwe Dana.

The Drum beat

Drum was first published by Bob Crisp in Cape Town in March 1951, under the title African Drum.

Sales were slow at first, so the magazine’s team moved to Johannesburg in September of the same year. Jim Bailey took over as publisher.

Its editorial focus at that time included investigative pieces, crime and lifestyle stories, as well as fashion and music, with a strong jazz influence.

Reflecting the spirit of the multicultural and racially mixed Sophiatown suburb in the early days of apartheid, the magazine’s cover regularly featured celebrated black South African women like musicians Dolly Rathebe and Miriam Makeba.

Although the magazine opposed racism and apartheid policy, it didn’t publish inflammatory material that the then government would have reason to ban.

‘Part of our legacy’

The recent celebrations included a series of awards, titled Living Legend, Posthumous, Timeless Beauty, Rising Star, Ubuntu award, Couple to look up to, Behind the scenes, and Drum icon.

The Living Legend category went to former Drum photographer Alf Khumalo, who is still active in the discipline today and showcases his work at his museum in Diepkloof, Soweto.

Khumalo said: “I felt greatly honoured, I didn’t expect it, but I think it’s a wonderful reward.”

Jazz musician Thandie Klassen was named the Timeless Beauty and the posthumous award was given to Rathebe, the magazine’s first pin-up model.

Singer and actress Thembi Seete, who was a member of the now defunct kwaito group Boom Shaka, was given the Rising Star award – while poet and author Gcina Mhlophe took the Ubuntu award.

Although not always being in the public eye, but having greatly impacted society, Mfundi Vundla won the Behind the scenes award. Vundla is the creator of local soapie Generations.

The Couple to look up to award was given to music power couple Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbuli, who have been married for 46 years.

The Drum icon award went to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of former president Nelson Mandela.

Zwane-Siguqa said: “Without them, there would be nothing to write in Drum. They are as much part of our rich history as are our journalists, our photographers and our legacy – it is in fact because of them that we have this legacy.”