Featured workDrum: Africa’s Leading Magazine

Drum magazine holds a special place in African journalism, perhaps because among South African publications it was the only one to chronicle the apartheid years from a black perspective.

To ensure that the magazine reflected black life, the magazine established an editorial board that included some of the leading political and cultural figures of the time. Drum’s essence lay within investigative reporting on sex (especially if across the colour line), injustices, crime and sports. The magazine also documented the lives of integrated communities and multiracial interactions that were not depicted in other publications. The texts were accompanied by superb photojournalism, such as in Ranjith Kally’s images of white people in shebeens (informal drinking establishments) published in 1957, and in Ian Berry’s images of moffie balls (drag parties) published in 1959. In the 1950s and 1960s, Drum was immensely popular among black South Africans. With 240,000 copies distributed across eight countries in Africa — Union of South Africa, Central African Federation, Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone — Drum was the most widely read magazine in Africa at the time. Its significance and ability to capture the zeitgeist of the urban black culture was so exceptional that the 1950s renaissance in black culture is often referred to as “The Drum Era.” Drum was also an important vehicle for voicing South African resistance during the 1950s – from the Defiance Campaign to the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. The magazine served as a means to unite and mobilize resistance, an important example being the photographs that accompanied Nelson Mandela’s statement “We Defy”, published in August 1952. Today, the magazine continues to be published in South Africa under media conglomerate Media24. Still aiming to provide relevant content for black South Africans, Drum has shifted its focus towards market news, entertainment and feature articles, and is less devoted to political issues.

 

 

  • 34 × 24.5 cm © Bailey’s African History Archives, Photo by Drum photographer

    Drum, Africa’s Leading Magazine, 1951–ongoing. Fashion in Casual cover, July 1956
  • 34 × 24.5 cm © Bailey’s African History Archives, Photo by Drum photographer

    Drum, Africa’s Leading Magazine, 1951–ongoing. Miriam Makeba cover, June 1957