Veteran photographer Alf Kumalo died today. He died in his sleep, aged 82. Alf was a warm, good man.
This is a blog post I wrote a year ago about Alf and one of this great friends.
The press always caught the other Muhammad Ali, the sharp tongued boxer who cut his opponents down with his wit and rhyming verse.
Photographer Alf Kumalo saw the other Ali.
In the garden of the Alf Kumalo museum, in Soweto, South Africa, the veteran press photographer spoke to me about the boxing giant, he came to call his friend.
The end of last week was the 37th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle, Alf was there at the Mai 20 Stadium in Kinshasa, Zaire.
Alf has been everywhere, the walls of his museum carry 50 years of his work.
There are prints of Nelson Mandela playing with his dog in the garden of his house in Vilakazi street.
Alf’s lens also documented the 1976 Soweto riots and so much more.
But Alf wants to talk about the The Louisville Lip.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, Alf use to shoot and write about boxing, that is when he met the champ.
Ali use to call Alf his African brother.
“No one has written about the soft spoken Ali,” remembers Alf. “Ali at his home, was a very quiet person almost inaudible, his voice thick”.
Alf remembers joy rides in Ali’s chocolate brown Roll Royce. They talked boxing, Alf had boxed for a while.
His boxing had helped him anticipate the action in the ring, he would know where the next blow would land, and his camera would be ready for the shot.
Once Alf was invited to visit the boxer in the early hours of the morning. “Ali said to us that his schedule was tight but he would talk to us, he said that we should meet after 1am, because up to 12:30 he would receive phone calls,” says Alf. They sat until 3.30am, listening to Ali recite poetry.
“He kept asking us “Ya’ all like that.’ We felt guilty keeping him up so late and eventually we left”.
Then for a moment Alf pauses.
“It is a pity that he cant talk that way anymore”.