The Duggan-Cronin Gallery in Kimberley is a photographic museum displaying the photographs of Alfred Duggan-Cronin, Aubrey Elliot, Jean Morris and Alice Mertens. Their photographs of the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, taken between 1919 and 1980, show aspects of traditional life and dress now largely vanished
The Duggan-Cronin Gallery is one of Kimberley’s little treasures, and showcases some of the country’s best photographic pieces. Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa, and has a number of popular tourist attractions, most of which relate to mining. However, this gallery gives visitors (whether local or international) the opportunity to learn about and experience the deep culture and history of this area in a very personal, meaningful way.
Who was Duggan-Cronin
Duggan-Cronin was an Irish miner that moved to Kimberley in 1897, first as a guard and then in the prison hospital. He bought his first camera seven years later and began taking photographs of the mine workers.
Soon, he began to travel in search of more beautiful, real images. In his travels, he was nicknamed Thandabantu. Which means “someone who loves people” in the Matabele language.
Encouraged by Maria Wilman, he undertook expeditions to the main tribal areas. Here he photographed the people before the Western influence drastically changed their traditional ways of life
This name became that of the permanent exhibition at Duggan-Cronin Gallery. Which showcases the faces and lives of South Africans during the early 1900’s. Incredibly, there were more than 7 000 negatives being stored at this gallery.
Eventually, Duggan-Cronin and his partner, Richard Madela, travelled beyond the borders of South Africa to the neighbouring countries. Capturing priceless images and meeting unique folk as they went along.
The Gallery Today
Today, the Duggan-Cronin Gallery is managed by the McGregor Museum, and Robert Hart is the custodian of the Duggan-Cronin collection.
The Duggan-Cronin collection consists of negatives and prints. As well as artefacts of material culture of the tribes. This includes beadwork, costumes, pottery, iron tools and wood carvings. A selection of his photographs have been included in publications such as The Bushmen Tribes of Southern Africa and The Bantu Tribes of South Africa.
This gallery is a must-see for visitors to South Africa. Whether their interest lies in local culture, the history of this multifaceted land, or the sheer art behind the photographic exhibition.