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BOB MARLEY: "A LIFE IN PHOTOGRAPHS" (article first published : 2007-01-28)

Bob Marley: "A Life in Photographs is a photographic exhibition featuring 100 colour and black and white photographs by a dozen photographers due to be seen at the Durban Art Gallery shortly.

In the 25 years since his passing, Bob Marley has become one of the most recognised faces in the world of popular culture. A Life In Photographs features prints by Adrian Boot, Dennis Morris and Lee Jaffe to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of music legend Bob Marley's birth.

How a boy from a rural Jamaican village became a global icon is a story now well known, at least in its basic outline: the young son of a Jamaican mother and white English father comes to Trench town, the tough West Kingston neighbourhood, forms a singing trio with his mates Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, connects with Studio One producer Coxsone Dodd, and struggles for more that a decade in Jamaica's tough but burgeoning reggae music scene. An increasing spirituality and a wholesale embrace of the Rastafarian faith. Opportunity grasped when offered a recording contract with Island Records. Growing international popularity - Bob becomes "the first Third World Superstar" - and then a tragic early death at 36 from cancer.

The photographic exhibition, while roughly chronological, does not seek to be a complete or linear narrative. The aim is rather impressionistic, with aesthetic considerations privileged over the merely illustrative. It is a collection of photographs of both the public and the private person. What many of these images reveal is the extent to which Marley communicated through his facial expressions.

Some of the images will be familiar, others certainly less so. Adrian Boot's wonderful Carlos Place portraits of Marley have achieved a certain ubiquity through Island Records' marketing campaigns, while Lee Jaffe's candid shots from the early 70s are much less widely known. Neville Garrick's photos at the Zimbabwe independence ceremonies will have a particular resonance in this southern African venue.

Africa liberation was one of the major themes of Marley's music. A child of the Diaspora, he came to despise racism, colonialism and oppression. It remains an important element of his legacy, and no doubt he would be pleased to see it remembered in a now free South Africa.

Bob Marley: "A Life in Photographs runs at the Durban Art Gallery from February 6 to 27. Entry to the Durban Art Gallery is free and all are welcome.




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