Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020) began taking portraits on the streets of Soweto at the age of seventeen. He became a protégé of the acclaimed South African photographer David Goldblatt and joined the South African Afrapix collective in 1985.
“Afrapix gave me a home. It provided me with money to buy a camera and film in order to document Soweto and the rising discontent in the townships.” – Santu Mofokeng
Mofokeng’s images and texts address subjects like history and land, memory and spirituality. He was an artist who helped shape the path of South African photography. Mofokeng was a documentarian who resisted easy categorization, creating an œuvre that addresses monumental topics while retaining a sense of lightness and poetry.
From 1988 to 1998 Santu Mofokeng worked as a photographer and researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the University of Witwatersrand. He wrote essays, which he interspersed with the photographic works he published. For his seminal project “Black Photo Album/Look at Me: 1890-1950,” which debuted at the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale, he compiled a slide show of retouched studio portraits of middle-class black South Africans taken between 1890 to 1950.
Santu Mofokeng's works have been exhibited in international museums such as Jeu de Paume, Paris; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; Bergen Kunsthal, Norway and The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm furthermore his works are in the collections of renowned museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris and MMK - Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt.