DAA Talk: ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ by Matthew Willman

Members of UKZN’s Durban Alumni Association were treated to a peek behind the lens of one of South Africa’s foremost visual artists. Matthew Willman has photographed global icons including President Nelson Mandela, US Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Annie Lennox and a number of Nobel laureates, musicians, and sports stars.

A documentary photographer, Willman has captured the lives of ordinary people in places like Eritrea, South Sudan and northern Kenya.  ‘It’s such a privilege to be living and working in these environments because this is where humanity meets itself,’ said Willman.

‘My normal is your abnormal. My normal is sitting out in some of the most horrendous places in the world, and I’m absolutely loving it,’ he said.

Willman captivated the audience with his experiences of chatting to Mandela over breakfast and his work as a commissioned photographer to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Having spent over a decade documenting Mandela’s life himself, he has published five best-selling books on South Africa’s first democratically elected President. At present, he is curating Mandela’s life at the Freedom Centre in the United States of America.

His passion extends to making a difference to individuals and communities and in 2011 he founded the Matthew Willman Arts Trust which has given tertiary level scholarships and financial grants to young up-and-coming artists.

An alumnus of the Durban University of Technology, Willman started doing his MA at UKZN, but left to spend time pursuing his dream of documenting Mandela’s life.

He has received many accolades for his work in the visual arts including this comment by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: ‘Matthew is a remarkably talented young man and I am thrilled to see the quality of the work he is producing. We have been enriched by many cultures, languages and faiths, it is a heritage in South Africa to be shared, experienced and celebrated as is the diversity of our landscapes, our wildlife, our villages and towns. Thank you Matthew for mediating these to us through your camera.’

Visit his website for a glimpse into his life behind the lens: http://www.matthewwillman.co.za/

*The Durban Alumni Association co-ordinates on average four such talks per year as well as tours to places of interest within KwaZulu-Natal. Membership of the Durban Alumni Association is open to all UKZN graduates and to affiliated members who are not graduates of the University. All graduates are encouraged to participate in the events which are advertised on the various UKZN Alumni social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter.

- Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer         

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