Fonds A3359 - William Matlala, Photographic Collection

University of Namibia protest against the location of SADF bases next to Namibian schools Koevoet in stay away action at Katatura township in Windhoek Koevoet excourts buses, Katatura township in Windhoek Workers deciding on strike action SADF stationed along the South African - Namibian border Angolan traders entering Namibia through the Ruacana border post SWAPO supporters welcome General Prem Chand at the Strydom airport SWAPO guerrillas in Chibemba Southern Angola Striking NUM miners NUM commemoration service at Secunda for the 177 mine workers killed in the Kinross mine disaster
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Reference code



William Matlala, Photographic Collection


  • (1947, 1974) 1980s-2000s (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

circa 4300 photographs

Context area

Name of creator

(20th century -)

Biographical history

William Matlala is a freelance photographer specializing in Labour and Trade Union activities, who has served the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in his capacity as photographer particularly in the 1990s.

He was born and grow up in the Dithabaneng village in Mphahlele district Northern province (Limpopo). After leaving school he went to seek employment in Johannesburg. He found himself in Germiston on the East Rand where he worked in Trimpack, a food company. He started as a general worker and later trained as a machine operator. In Trimpack he joined the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) and was elected shop steward as well as chairman of the shop steward committee.

Whilst working in Trimpack he became interested in photography and started corresponding with the African School of Photography in Pretoria, where he obtained a Diploma. Initially he took photographs of colleagues at work and at their home with their families, and became fully involved in community activities particularly after the company closed in 1988. He then underwent more training in the field of photography through the Department of Manpower and later at the Market theather photo workshop and the South African Union of Journalists.

He built a large photographic archive throughout the 1990s, mainly of his own photographs but also of other South African photographers like Anna Zieminski, Cedric Nunn, Santu Mofokeng, Paul Weinberg, Morice Smithers and Abdul Shariff.

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Scope and content

Collection of photographs by the photographer William Matlala and others.

His photographs focus on workers at their workplace, union activities and gatherings, community work and social issues. It covers political event during the time of transition from Apartheid to a democratic South Africa. The collection also includes a large section on personalities from various spheres ranging from trade unions, politics, art and business.

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System of arrangement

The photographs in this collection have been numbered in accordance with the classification assigned by William Matlala, which has been largely retained. Images in sections 1-29 have not been listed in chronological order. The captions for each photograph have been provided by William Matlala. Photographs by other photographers have been included and appropriate acknowledgements been made.

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Conditions governing reproduction

Permission to publish must be obtain from William Matlala, as well as the respective photographers represented in this collection.

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Notes area


A file numbered 1a, preceding the photographic collection, contains the pamphlet and flyer of the exhibition "The Complete Worker: Everyday Lives and Struggles of Black Workers, 1983-2018, Photographs of William Matlala". The exhibition was launched at the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, on the 2 September 2018.

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