Photographer's Note

This is an unusual photo for me. It was taken in Harare, Zimbabwe, in early 1984, when I spent the Nordic winter touring southern Africa to write freelance stories. These men called themselves the Blacks Unlimited. They were big stars on the local music scene and their leader Thomas Mapfumo (the seated man with dreadlocks) had an almost legendary status.

The interview I had planned didn't go very well. I spent a couple of hours at the place where they used to rehearse, and although they were all polite and friendly, Thomas Mapfumo was not very talkative. I managed to take a number of photos anyway. When we all gathered outside for a photo session this elderly lady came walking by on her way from the grocery store. She obviously thought it would be fun to be photographed, so she joined us for a while. That's why they are all in such a good mood. She put a smile on everyone's face.

Thomas Mapfumo gained fame in the 1970's with songs that supported the guerillas fighting the illegal white regime in what was then Rhodesia. He was banned from Rhodesian radio and was imprisoned for a few months in 1979. But his songs were still being played in discos and other radio stations, and his popularity kept growing.

When Zimbabwe celebrated its independence in 1980 Thomas Mapfumo topped the bill at a big concert in Harare along with international super star Bob Marley.

Later during the 1980's he became increasingly critical of the corruption and economic mismanagement of Robert Mugabe's regime. Eventually in the 1990's he felt forced to leave the country and moved to the USA.

Despite the meagre result of my meeting with Thomas Mapfumo I wrote a story which I tried to sell to a music magazine. But the editor wisely rejected it because it was nearly all about politics, too little about the music. I just had to agree with him.

I scanned this from a Kodak Tri-X negative.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 12698 W: 572 N: 24313] (103564)
  • Genre: People
  • Medium: Black & White
  • Date Taken: 1984-03-00
  • Photo Version: Original Version
  • Date Submitted: 2020-09-28 0:17
  • Favorites: 1 [view]
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Points: 56
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