Santu Mofokeng: Master Photographer Chasing Shadows

Santu Mofokeng

On hearing of the death of the mythical South African photographer Santu Mofokeng it felt just like a terrific shadow passing above us, the last withdrawal of a person who illuminates.

Closing, since the guy from Soweto who recorded the outer and inner landscapes of black life during and after apartheid, had dwelt just like a shadow himself for decades as a consequence of a harrowing degenerative disorder, leading to the lack of speech, and many physical ability, certainly not able to shoot any more photos.

Some may take consolation from the idea that shadows were his thing, he monitored the fantastic frailty of humankind that’s that the predilection for chasing darkness.

And the fantastic, transfiguring attractiveness of a lot of his photos — by the caves in Motouleng (2004 – 2007), or the balmy headless horse in the Buddhist escape (2003), along with the ghostly winter scene at Tembisa (1991) — may still hit you like stray bullets.

Santu wasn’t only a photographer, he was a believer in large topics, sculpting allegories, insights and theories in regard to his pictures as he did so. Some may call his announcements aphorisms, but the concept of a fact in a pithy statement wasn’t really a part of his language.

I’m considering the ambiguity of items. This comes not in a place of energy, but needless to say.

He discovered that famous South African photographer David Goldblatt’s fascination with the occurrence of things, their ‘is-ness’ as Goldblatt place it crystallized his own place: “I am not like this.”

Both of these great photographers said they weren’t thinking about photographing violence. Santu’s motive? It was unnecessary, since “the violence is at the understanding”.

In the memorial ceremony held following his passing at the college on 30 January 2020, I discovered that he never spoke about what occurred at the moment. Violence of numerous types already pressed down many South Africans, it had been the zones of miasma in people’s heads and about them that fascinated him as a photographer, in addition to their flickering moments of transcendence.

Poisoned Landscapes

Santu’s later work on climate change surely took on those things: the individual frame of mind, and also the condition of the planet. As he moved to his huge subject of poisoned landscapes, he changed out of what he termed individuals’s “psychic rupture using all the property” into the property’s own rupturing with itself.

He pulls out the seeping indications of processes occurring in and around the ground, frequently coming from underground, metabolizing as poisonous, cancerous, or emerging as slow encrustations and eroded rifts.

A lot of the work is portentous, menacing, pointing towards the unknown in the brink of components, be it water, ground, fire or air. From the photos of the replacement of sand onto Durban’s South Beach (2007), the flying gobs seem like a few planetary constellation or biblical plague as well as the earth has been framed as flying in pieces throughout the skies.

In terms of people’s state of mind about climate change, Santu was asked to ask the question: how exactly can you picture anxiety? In reality, “It has always been around not understanding.” While some continents burn off and many others continue to unfreeze, we ought to recall that

Pictures put the floor in regard to what would be the difficulties.

No Southern African photographer leaves a substantial legacy for the nation to consider as it experiences the more quickly unfolding issues and catastrophes of climate change.

However, Santu never took it for granted that his photos would be read together with all the subtlety of his own idea as he considered what he’d seen.

You create the images, you understand how they are going to be performed… It is not like I am impartial, but I do not let – that I do not want – folks to make me believe how that they do.

A fantastic shadow, and he’s passed. The photos he made and what he said must make us go about believing. We aren’t done since he’s not done. His work stays.

John Liebenberg: Great Photographer of Life And War In Southern Africa

Great Photographer of Life And War In Southern Africa

South African photojournalist John Liebenberg is famous for his impressive body of work in Namibia, particularly the length of the late 1980s once the nation led towards its United Nations-supervised transition into liberty .

Born in 1958 in Johannesburg, his youth wasn’t a simple one, a part of it invested in an orphanage. He finished school in some time when white South African males were expected to finish compulsory army support and he had been conscripted into Ondangwa in northern Namibia in 1976. It was prohibited to take photos in the military, but Liebenberg hid a little camera at the bathroom block.

After federal support Liebenberg returned into Namibia and functioned at the Windhoek post office. He wished to become a photographer. He had a capacity to connect to individuals. He regularly spoke of the black migrant employees that he came to understand in the office, the majority of them out of Namibia’s northern boundary region with Angola at which the warfare has been intensifying. Called the ‘border war’ into South Africans and since the’war of liberation’ into Namibians, it brought Namibia, Angola and other countries to South Africa’s struggle against armed liberation movements encouraged by socialist states that surrendered wider Cold War politics.

“Endearment” was a phrase Liebenberg enjoyed to use while speaking about his connection with individuals, getting to know their stories, and their unpleasant journeys of requirement to operate from the south. One had the sense, many decades afterwards, the tales obsessed him. This was the exact same after he combined The Namibian paper and started covering the developing urban mobilization of trade unions and pupils and progressively, the warfare zone around the border with Angola.

Fellow supporters and friends describe a guy with the ability to jump fences, break down borders, and disarm individuals because he moved like a whirlwind shooting photos, sometimes slyly, but frequently being touched by individuals and touching them.

Enemy of The Country

Namibia’s transition into liberty began on 1 April 1989 and originally foundered with the collapse of a ceasefire from the north.

Hours prior to the battle declared, Liebenberg’s car was riddled with bullets at an assassination effort. He discovered years afterwards from the amnesty hearings of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission his prospective killers, the dark apartheid death squad that the Civil Cooperation Bureau, was commissioned to eliminate him.

It is remarkable how he continued the seriousness of idiotic photographic coverage of continuing war and protest within this age, such as breaking up the challenging story of their balances of human rights abuses by detainees who belonged to the South West Africa People’s Organisation or SWAPO.

After Namibian independence, Liebenberg proceeded on to pay the civil war at Angola, which he called the “warfare of insanity”. The stakes were quite large, the politics muddied, and individual life often disrespected.

He accompanied the MPLA forces moving throughout fundamental Angola to reconquer regions maintained by UNITA, such as Huambo.


He was always quite apparent that the story must deal with many different parties in the battle.

The first follows youthful white conscripts that are pitched to the war zone of this Namibia-Angola border. It evolves into scenes in which black and white safety forces face local people who face curfews and risks, that have their areas and homesteads ruined by armoured vehicles and shellfire, but that frequently endure with unreadable insecurities and insecurities in the face of these impositions. No additional photographer in southern Africa has recorded war this manner.

The next is more hierarchical, exploring the wake of war in landscapes and portraits. Since Liebenberg’s co-author, I was amazed in the comprehensiveness of this subject matter and also the absence of waste inside this analogue archive file.

As we labored, Liebenberg pulled another body of work that he hadn’t ever revealed, the weekend portraits shot at the Ovambo Hostel for migrant guys in Katutura township at Windhoek at 1986. These are amazing for the means by which the guys presented their absolute identity into the camera. When a few of those photos were displayed in Windhoek at 2011, as Weekends in the Okombone, there were spectacular moments of fame with a number of those descendants of these photographed guys.

This wasn’t just about love. He was speaking to the sudden psychological impacts of his own life work.

You will find deep affective consequences for a photographer coming near people’s pain, death, mutilation, guilt, despair, mourning, anger or cruelty. Maybe it made him even reckless, throwing items to the end and keeping the camera rolling as he did during the next airplane crash he underwent in Huambo province from the 1990s.

And in case you can’t reach or assist the individuals who come into the chambers of your heart, then they could be brought into the chambers of your own camera. In other words, the subject enters John’s visual universe, in which unfathomable depths and surfaces reduce several ways. That’s the reason why there’s not any single approach to read some of his pictures, and likely why many stay so haunting.

And questions remain concerning the livelihood and last plight of a pre-eminent photographer who died in hospital following a surgery at age 61 without health care benefits. Who frequently spoke of this manipulation of photographers by papers, networks and agencies. He explained that they were occasionally careless and frequently rough about the copyright which would eventually become the sole way of survival for an aging photographer along with his loved ones. A photographer whose living archive is exceptional, with the capability to open the historic memory of all countries.

Marginalized Namibian People Try To Regain Photography After Colonialism

Marginalized Namibian People Try To Regain Photography After Colonialism

A lot of men and women consider photography as the supreme democratic mass medium. Everyone can upload and take a selfie to international platforms. Pictures taken by average folks and shared on societal media have led to political change, such as throughout the Egyptian revolution of 2011.

Up to 80 percent of the Herero cultural group and massive parts of different groups were wiped from the German colonial military system. Photography played a part in justifying these massacres and at what followed.

Namibia’s archives include pictures of proud German troops standing to attention near the bodies of Herero prisoners. In recent years that followed colonial police tried to depict a milder aspect of white rule. Pictures of black folks fascinated by white technologies — cameras, planes, automobiles — aren’t uncommon.

Throughout interviews I conducted for my newly filed doctoral dissertation, native San people clarified, in a variety of villages and on certain development projects, the privilege of taking photos of San individuals was exchanged for cash and donations of meals.

This fact threatens to restrict how photography could be emancipatory later on. My study included numerous Namibian organisations which have made photography component of the mission to enable marginalized men and women. I discovered their job is often amazingly positive, challenging widely held Namibian social standards and portraying a urgent need to be viewed. However, the devil is in the detail, and frequently that detail relates to continuing patterns of urgency.

Various Ways of Seeing

The organisations that I worked with search to “return” photographs from its historic and current manipulation. They plan to go marginalized Namibians involved with educating their own stories and documenting their particular communities through photography.

We were relatively privileged Namibians and needed to take this into consideration when attempting to help people empower themselves through pictures making without centring our personal encounters, particularly when acting as educators and specialists.

The part of the instructor and the part of the specialist are equally traditionally imbued with a level of power. Such ways of thinking about understanding are debatable since they suggest that for every expert, there’s a non-expert who must be “awarded” information.

As I’ve explained at a TEDx talk linked to the job , this can be an especially pervasive danger in regards to education regarding technology.

However, research demonstrates people learn at a much better and more empowering manner when they’re permitted to build their own expertise, and therefore are the proprietors of a procedure which determines what knowledge is essential and what’s not.

During my study, I managed to find out what happens when conventional methods of thinking are placed aside and electricity is given to pupils to photographically clarify their particular individuality. The results could be interesting and distinctive.

San people are commonly photographed. However, their very own pictures, they take themselves, barely appear in printed or exhibited photographic work.

The major picture of this article was shot by Tertu Fernandu, among those San members of a photographic project I work on. She’s active in many organisations which represent the San as a collective.

It is interesting to notice the advertising sign to get a curio/tourist store referred to as “Bushman Art” behind her. Bushman is expression imposed upon many different San cultural groups by Westerners, and is occasionally regarded as derogatory from the San themselves. Stylized representations of average Namibian ancient stone paintings, as allegedly emblematic of San or “Bushman” civilization, are visible within their signal and can also be painted onto the wall behind it.

From the gap between its subject and the background, then, the image appears to indicate a disconnect between what San individuals were regarded as previously and what they’re now. Additionally, it reveals the differences between representations of San individuals offered to overseas visitors as well as the features of living Namibian San folks in fact.

Challenging Power

They frequently used symbolism in photos to illustrate such feelings.

This picture was shot though the window of a curio store which sells artefacts allegedly representing Namibia, mostly for tourists. On the interior of the window that a lady of a Himba woman and kid wearing traditional dress could be viewed, and what seem like a necklace along with a carved sculpture of an elephant.

The image appears to imply there are a lot of methods of being Namibian, which the picture presented to overseas traffic is only partly accurate. It is just part of the narrative.

These images appear to challenge, or question, social power relationships in Namibia. My participants stated in interviews that pictures may be a struggle to power arrangements. They said it might, as an instance, reveal queer Namibians — that face tremendous discrimination — as ordinary people with hopes and wants just like anybody else. It had been regarded as a means to get”the youth” to speak about and to each other through social networking.

Photography In Future

It’s to be expected that Namibians considering photography continue to participate with the photographic album and inquire how they could make their practice more humanist.

This is occurring to some degree. Quite a few young urban black girls are creating challenging photographic perform inside the genre of “afrofuturism”. But more should be done in order to take this motion to rural locations.

Simply speaking, it’s crucially important that marginalized Namibians are invited to carry up cameras to record their lives — in their own terms.