Margaret Courtney-Clarke was born in Namibia in 1949. After studying art and photography in South Africa, she spent the next four decades working as a photographer between Italy and the USA and across the African continent. Drawn to remote places, Courtney-Clarke has produced numerous award-winning books and her work has been exhibited and collected worldwide.
Courtney-Clarke’s eight major publications to date include her trilogy on the Art of African Women: Ndebele (1986), African Canvas (1991) and Imazighen (1996). They were translated into five languages, and enjoyed multiple editions and reprints for 20 years.
A Steidl publication entitled Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain (2017) marks a new phase in Courtney-Clarke’s photography. When she returned to re-establish a home in Namibia in 2009, the landscape once so familiar to her was undergoing rapid transformation, with intense rural–urban migration by those in search of a better life. In Cry Sadness, Courtney-Clarke turns her lens on the aspirations of the poor in their search for human dignity, on their quest for shelter in a ravaged land and on the environment in crisis. In his foreword to the book, David Goldblatt writes “[the photographs] are eloquent of raw existence and offer faint glimmers of hope, of life scratched from an appallingly inhospitable terrain in the face of overwhelming societal transition. Yet these photographs attain a searing grace which is in no sense false to the reality but is, on the contrary, a rare synthesis of what is there with an intensely heightened and uncompromisingly honest vision”.