Prolific South African Santu Mofokeng has been capturing pre and post apartheid life in South Africa for over 2 decades. Mofokeng was born in Soweto, Johannesburg in 1956. As a teeneger he begun as a street photographer, growing into his full career as a photojournalist documenting the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Mofokeng’s deviation from conventional subject matter includes photographic enquiries into spirituality, an interest that has continued throughout his photographic career and produced the extraordinary, evocative series Chasing Shadows. His explorations of landscape invested with spiritual significance form part of a wider enquiry into space and belonging, the political meaning of landscape. His work, in which he ‘reclaims landscape’, investigates the meaning of landscape in relation to ownership, power and memory. In his recent photographs of urban landscapes, Santu Mofokeng again goes beyond political and social commentary into meditations on ‘existential madness — the absurdities of living’. Noting that ‘billboards have been the medium of communication between the rulers and the denizens of townships since the beginning of the township’, in his images their solicitations cruelly highlight the impoverishment of the citizenry they importune. – Artist Statment, Santu Mofokeng
Mofokeng is recently the recipient of the International Prize for Photography. His works, curated by Simon Najmi are currently being exhibited at the Fora Boaria in Modena, Italy until 8 May 2016.
“Everyone was aware of the great responsibility of choosing a winning photographer, not only for his or her interpretation of the given theme – identity – but also for offering a suitable vision of what the International Photography Prize aims at becoming over the years. Not one of the many celebratory awards, nor a prize for lifetime achievement, but an example of quality. Santu Mofokeng is an artist who has made his reserve a way of life; he does not belong to any system and this freedom has enabled him to create stunning images. His creativity is totally open-ended, it does not focus on a specific subject but revolves around the theme of establishing an identity. The variety of subjects and the ability to approach them clear-sightedly and with rational starkness distinguish his oeuvre”. It has also been stated that “Santu Mofokeng has been able to develop a strong career and an uncompromising body of work in photography, documenting South African reality from the Apartheid period to the present time; the question of black identity and integration between communities has always been crucial to his work.”
Santu Mofokeng, Dove Lady #4, Orlando East, Soweto, 2002. From the series ‘Billboards.’ Pigment print. © The Santu Mofokeng Foundation.
Santu Mofokeng, Hands in Worship, Johannesburg-Soweto Line, 1986. From the series ‘Train Church.’ Pigment print. © The Santu Mofokeng Foundation.
Santu Mofokeng, Eyes Wide Shut, Motouleng Cave Clarens, 2004. From the series ‘Ishmael.’ Pigment print. © The Santu Mofokeng Foundation.