Born 1949, Namibia. Lives in Swakopmund, Namibia.
Margaret Courtney-Clarke studied art and photography in South Africa and has spent the last four decades working as a photographer in Italy, the United States and across Africa.
Courtney-Clarke began her career working under Italian photographer and filmmaker Pasquale De Antonis photographing art, architecture and antiquities, before travelling as a freelance photographer on magazine assignments in Europe and Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979 Courtney-Clarke became a persona non grata under the Apartheid laws and renounced her South African citizenship – she would later return to South West Africa under the protection of the United Nations and claim her Namibian citizenship. Throughout her career, Courtney-Clarke would pursue personal projects in Africa documenting feminine identity.
The body of work, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain (2014 – 2018), marks a new phase in Courtney-Clarke’s photographic work, documenting the artist’s return to Namibia and her engagement with its people and a landscape in crisis. They evidence her passionate concern for human enterprise and failure, and for an environment infused with remnants of apartheid as well as hope. Photographer 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”.
Nominations and awards for her photographic publications include: Deutscher Fotobuchpreis (2018) and the 2018 Krasznz-Krausz Book Award (long listed) for Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain; Photo District News (PDN) award for A Lifelong Obsession with Finding Shelter, NYC, USA; the 2015 Henri Cartier-Bresson (HBC) nomination for her series On Borrowed Time, Paris, France; 10 Best Books of the Year Award (1994), New York Public Library, USA.
Dedicated publications on Courtney-Clarke’s work include, amongst others – Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain (2018); her acclaimed trilogy on the Art of African Women: Ndebele (2002), African Canvas (1990) and Imazighen (1996) as well as several collaborations with Maya Angelou.
More than 200 exhibitions of Courtney-Clarke’s photography have been held around the world.