How Santu Mofokeng Shaped South African Photography

Mofokeng, who died in January, made work that waded through themes of history and land, and helped shape the course of South African photography.

These images, by the South African photographer Santu Mofokeng, ostensibly depict scenes of segregated transport during apartheid. Yet in their composition they evoke something more: the rhythms and textures of everyday life. Taken from within and among a crowd of commuters, the pictures seem to sway with the velocity of the train carriage. Shards of light blur the edges of figures, interplaying with shifting shadows as passengers move in unison. Titled “Train Church,” Mofokeng’s series was made during a few weeks in 1986, and in South Africa it became veritably synonymous with his name. Mofokeng, who died in January, at the age of sixty-three, was a photographer whose body of work—both images and text—waded through themes of history and land, memory and spirituality, and helped shape the course of South African photography.

Santu Mofokeng, Photographer of Apartheid Life, Dies at 63

His sublime black-and-white images of everyday life in South Africa both during and after white rule capture hope and unfulfilled expectations.

Santu Mofokeng, a photographer whose searing images of everyday life in South Africa’s black townships documented the prospects of freedom from apartheid and the unfulfilled promise of its overthrow, died on Jan. 26 in Johannesburg. He was 63.

Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020)

The South African photographer died at 63. Here is the feature we dedicated to him when he received the International Photography Award in Modena in 2016.

Santu Mofokeng, the photojournalist who made ordinary things extraordinary | The Star

Condolences continue to pour in for legendary photographer who died at the weekend surrounded by his family in Soweto.

Art critic Sandile Ngidi tweeted: "South African documentary photography has lost one of its brightest stars. Santu Mofokeng belonged to a committed generation of photographers that gained prominence in the 'alternative media' in the 1980s and 1990s. This series is on 'train churches'. Salutes!"

Victory in the Shadows

Through blur, darkness and drift, the photographer Santu Mofokeng shows that black South Africans are more than their suffering.

The photographer is Santu Mofokeng, and the caption of the image opens up a world: ‘‘The Drumming, Johannesburg- Soweto Line, from Train Church, 1986.’’ We now know that we are in South Africa, that the hand is not at rest as we might have first guessed but drumming on the wall of a train carriage and that the train carriage is doing double duty as a church.