I was moved beyond capturable words when I came across Santu Mofokeng’s photography a few years ago. I had found my interest threading into the field of street photography, to capture moments which made up stories that could rather be fleeting experiences if not stored onto photographic memory. With time, I’ve paid attention to Santu’s journey and made several visits to his online galleries for inspiration, and also to disocver the connections that his stationary stories make with the past and present sociopolitical scene.
“Home is an appropriated space. It does not exist objectively in reality. The notion of ‘home’ is a fiction we create out of a need to belong.
Home is a place where most people have never been to and never will arrive at. Except, below that patch of mound that has a number you notice as you glide past on your way to nowhere anywhere.”
“Billboards capture and encapsulate ideology, the social, economic and political climate at any given time. Apartheid billboards were very austere […] The economic boom of the sixties introduced American style highway advertising billboards thus rendering Apartheid ideology anonymous and opaque. In the politically turbulent period of the ’70s and ’80 the overtly political billboards made their return. This time the struggle was for the hearts and minds of the populace. Recently, with the liberalization of politics the billboard is chiefly used to address the rising consumer culture and the anxiety caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In the name of freedom of speech one’s cultural sensibility is assaulted by textual and visual messages.”
Santu’s style marks a perspective of poetry in a lane of its own. We see the depth therein and gap that a cultured lens devoid of the spoil of myriad mounts of technology’s vaults leaves the new school. Photography is one of the best methods of visual documentation, especially when it is done for a cause- in Santu’s case to echo the woes of apartheid. Black and white photography evokes a simple but sophisticated texture for the eyes to ponder and upon focus, it renders a poignant resource of crystallized lamina of awareness.
How does widespread easy access to technology and social media tools affect the art of photography? Old school Photographer Ken Van Sickle thinks; “Technology doesn’t change the way photography is. It makes it available to more people, which means there’s going to be much, much more really terrible pictures taken or pictures that are totally dependent on subject, which is all, all right. If you were there when the Hindenburg caught on fire, and you took a picture of it, that’s a great photograph. But you’re not a great photographer, because you can’t repeat that in everyday things.”
Santu makes a detour from prevalent themes and indulges in inquiries into spirituality, political landscapes, bodies under oppression due to subjected control, thus creating very sound and profound outputs. His interrogations analyse the broad meanings and possibilities of space and belonging as well as social encounters within these constructs. With politics of landscapes, he approaches the subject through angles of ownership, power and memory. We find Santu Mofokeng’s projects going beyond political and social commentary to realistic meditations into deconstructing borders or pollutants and reintroducing sanity.
Mofokeng’s most recent exhibitions include A Silent Solitude- Fondazione Fotografia Modena, Italy, Centro Municipal de Arte Hélio Oiticica- Rio de Janeiro and Between States of Emergency- Nelson Mandela Foundation, Johannesburg.