Santu Mofokeng photographed township life and the struggle against Apartheid. He is since known for his eerily empty and beautiful landscapes, and often their connection to ancestral worship there.
When we meet at Mofokeng’s home in Johannesburg, the photographer describes how he after democracy turned his camera away from the social ills of poverty and inequality. He says he realized that people living in squalor here wasn’t simply due to the racial inequalities of Apartheid but exists because market capitalism rules the day. “Apartheid had more to do with economic exploitation, cheap labour or criminal economics,” Mofokeng tells PhotographyAndDemocracy.com.
Looking back to the early 90s, Mofokeng continues: “Now that we are a democracy, I don’t have to tell the South African story. … After ’94, when we exceed to market capitalism, … I thought, what is the point … you say people are poor, or people are sick, or people don’t have running water. Wherever you find capitalism … you will find the rich and the very poor … I couldn’t find legitimation for what I do, unless I thought I had an answer to capitalism.”
He asks: “What am I saying if I say capitalism is bad? What is better? Communism?”
Hear more from Mofokeng himself; watch the video.
I would suggest opening Mofokeng’s excellent portfolio website in a separate window, as reference, while you watch the video. There you can peruse a career-long collection of Mofokeng’s photo essays, and his insightful and poetic writings about them.