Omar Badsha

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Omar Badsha is a South African documentary photographer, artist, political and trade union activist and an historian.[1] He has exhibited his art in South Africa and internationally. In 2015 he won the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Art.[2]

Early life[edit]

Badsha was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal on 27 June 1945. He is a third generation South African of Indian origin and comes from a Gujarati Muslim Sunni Vohra family. His father Ebrahim Badsha was one of the South African pioneer black artists and a founding member of Bantu, Indian, Coloured Arts (BICA) organisation started by Durban artists in 1951.[2]


In the early 1960s, Badsha produced "resistance art" and won a number of awards including Sir Basil Schonland prize in 1965 and the Oppenheimer award in 1969 after his work was featured in the Johannesburg exhibition Artists of Fame and Promise.[3] He became an anti-apartheid activist during his high schools days. He was one of the activists who revived the Natal Indian Congress in the 1970s and the independent left wing trade union movement that grew out of the famous 1973 Durban strikes. Badsha established and was the first secretary of the Chemical Workers Industrial Union.[3] During this time he was detained and harassed.[4] He was denied a passport and never allowed to travel outside the country until 1990.[5]

In 1982 Badsha cofounded the multiracial organization Afrapix.[6] They took photojournalistic photographs of effects and impact of apartheid with the aim to create a picture library and "stimulate documentary photography".[7] He is also the founder of South African History Online, South Africa's largest history website.[2]

He is the author of a number of photographic books. His first book was A Letter to Farzanah, was banned immediately after its publication in 1979.[2]


  1. ^ "Narratives: Ritual and Graven Images by Omar Badsha". 5 October 2002. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Omar Badsha - Award for Visual Art". 3 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Changing focus: The art and activism of Omar Badsha". Mail & Guardian Online. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Dick, Archie L. (2013). The Hidden History of South Africa's Book and Reading Cultures. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442695085. 
  5. ^ Congressional Serial Set. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1990. p. 158. 
  6. ^ Divya Dwivedi, Sanil V (2015). The Public Sphere From Outside the West. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472571922. 
  7. ^ Peffer, John (2009). Art and the End of Apartheid, Volume 2. U of Minnesota Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780816650019.