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Ahmed Kathrada

“Kathy was a tower of strength and a source of inspiration to many prisoners, both young and old.” – Walter Sisulu

While locked away on Robben Island for eighteen years, Ahmed Kathrada secretly collected quotes that inspired him, recording them as a gesture of quiet defiance that helped to preserve his sense of self. In the portrait shot by Adrian Steirn, Kathrada stands against a canvas backdrop covered in the quotes that helped him to retain his freedom of mind. He is dignified and humble, a man who has survived the sternest tests of will that a human being can face.

Steirn shot Kathrada against a white canvas backdrop inscribed with 40 of his favourite quotations, the emphasis being on the man and his words.

Says Steirn, “Ahmed Kathrada spent a lifetime on Robben Island and one of the things that fascinated me was what got him through. For him it was his words, those phrases, they were his companions. I wanted to take a photo that would all put it in one box for everybody to see.”