Santu Mofokeng (born 1956) is one of the most vital artists to emerge from South Africa's late apartheid era. From his distinctive portrayals of township life to his acclaimed reassessment of the medium's documentary function, Mofokeng's intuitive and multilayered oeuvre continues to grow in relevance and reach.
This illuminating collection of texts—with contributions by Rory Bester, Jean-François Chevrier, Joshua Chuang, Patricia Hayes and Hans Ulrich Obrist, among others—provides an informed basis for engaging with Mofokeng's body of work along with its related concerns.
Published to accompany the photobook series Santu Mofokeng: Stories, this essential, context-rich reference also features a comprehensive chronology and bibliography, interviews with David Goldblatt and Paul Weinberg, and previously unpublished writings by Mofokeng himself.
A deluxe boxed suite of 21 photo-albums by South African documentarian Santu Mofokeng
Heralded for his nuanced portrayals of township life in South Africa, and widely celebrated as "the spiritual painter of South Africa's body politic" (Aperture), Santu Mofokeng (born 1956) first made his name as a member of the Afrapix collective, then as a documentary photographer and finally as an independent artist. His groundbreaking Stories series is the result of a multi-year collaboration between the photographer, bookmaker Lunetta Bartz, editor/curator Joshua Chuang and Gerhard Steidl. Together they have carefully mined and distilled over 30 years of work into 18 definitive "stories" that are sharply edited, simply presented and richly printed in an oversized format that recalls the golden age of picture magazines. The stories range in subject from the zealous expressiveness found in Train Church and Pedi Dancers to the contested spaces of Robben Island, Trauma, and Landscapes and Billboards. In addition to the volumes previously published by Steidl, many pictures appear here for the first time. Limited edition of 1,000.
This monograph is dedicated to Santu Mofokeng, winner of the International Prize for Photography.
Being a photographer at the time when Santu Mofokeng decided to become one was not an unmotivated act. A psychological, moral, and sometimes physical war was being fought, and South Africa was its arena. Photography could not afford to be an artistic abstraction. It was both a political and intellectual commitment. It was anger; it was revolt. But it remained, in spite of everything, a form of writing, and that is how Mofokeng approached it. Not like his country’s freedom fighters who denounced the iniquity of the ideology behind apartheid, but as the very special witness of a story which, until then, had been suppressed. By photographing his people, the places, the faces, and the streets, Mofokeng speaks to us about himself. Because all stories always begin with the person who tells them. And they come back to the teller in the end.
Simon Njami is a Paris-based independent curator, lecturer, and art critic. He was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Revue Noire, a journal of contemporary African and extra-occidental art.
2: Concert in Sewefontein, 3: Funeral, 4: 24 April 1994
Published by Steidl. Edited by Santu Mofokeng, Joshua Chuang.
In 1988 Santu Mofokeng (born 1956) joined the staff of the African Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand as a documentary photographer and researcher. In this position, he began to record the lives of tenant laborers in the unremarkable township of Bloemhof, an agricultural town in Northern South Africa. Over the next several years, Mofokeng amassed what could be considered the core of his larger body of work: a set of interconnected photo-essays centering on the Maine family, with whom he stayed. Highly distilled yet immersive, Books Two through Four of the series Santu Mofokeng: Stories form a loose trilogy that describes how the residents of Bloemhof unwind, bury one of their own and gather together on one of the most consequential days in South African history.
Published by Steidl. Edited by Joshua Chuang, Santu Mofokeng.
Over the course of a few weeks in 1986, aboard the crowded Soweto-Johannesburg train he took to and from his job as a darkroom printer, Santu Mofokeng (born 1956) photographed the spontaneous singing of his fellow commuters. This is the first in a series of Mofokeng volumes from Steidl.
Published by Steidl. Contributions by James T. Campbell.
For this book, Santu Mofokeng collected private photographs which urban black working and middle-class families in South Africa commissioned between 1890 and 1950, a time when the government was creating policies towards those designated as natives. Painterly in style, the images evoke the artifices of Victorian photography. Some of them are fiction, a creation of the artist in terms of setting, props, clothing and pose, yet there is no evidence of coercion. We believe these images, as they reveal something about how these people imagined themselves. In this work Mofokeng analyses the sensibilities, aspirations and self-image of the black population and its desire for representation and social recognition in times of colonial rule and suppression. The Black Photo Album / Look at Me: 1890–1950 is drawn from an ongoing research project of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.