Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access JSTOR through your library or other institution:

login

Log in through your institution.

Journal Article

Santu Mofokeng, Photographs: "The Violence Is in the Knowing"

Patricia Hayes
History and Theory
Vol. 48, No. 4, Theme Issue 48: Photography and Historical Interpretation (Dec., 2009), pp. 34-51
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25621437
Page Count: 18
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Add to My Lists
  • Cite this Item
Santu Mofokeng, Photographs: "The Violence Is in the Knowing"
Preview not available

Abstract

Born in 1956, Santu Mofokeng formed part of the Afrapix Collective that engaged in exposé and documentary photography of anti-apartheid resistance and social conditions during the 1980s in South Africa. However, Mofokeng was an increasingly important internal critic of mainstream photojournalism, and of the ways black South Africans were represented in the bigger international picture economy during the political struggle. Eschewing scenes of violence and the third-party view of white-on-black brutality in particular, he began his profound explorations of the everyday and spiritual dimensions of African life, both in the city and in the countryside. His formal techniques favor "fictions" that contain smoke, mist, and other matters and techniques that occlude rather than expose. Using angularity and ambivalence, he also ruptures realist expectations and allows space for the uncanny and the supernatural. He works with the notion of seriti (a northern seSotho term encompassing aura, shadow, power, essence, and many other things). The essay follows strands in Mofokeng's writings and statements in relation to certain of his photographs, most recently repositioned in the substantial 2007 exhibition Invoice, to argue that he has pushed for a desecularization and Africanization of photography from the 1980s to the present. In more recent work the scourge of apartheid has been replaced by the HIV/AIDS virus, a mutation of nature, exacerbating the spiritual insecurities of many people in post-apartheid South Africa. The essay concludes that Mofokeng's work poses a critique of the parallel paradigms of Marxist-influenced social history and documentary photography in 1980s South Africa, both still highly influential, by attempting to reinsert aura (seriti) into photography and by highlighting what secular Marxism has concealed and proscribed.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[34]
    [34]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
35
    35
  • Thumbnail: Page 
36
    36
  • Thumbnail: Page 
37
    37
  • Thumbnail: Page 
38
    38
  • Thumbnail: Page 
39
    39
  • Thumbnail: Page 
40
    40
  • Thumbnail: Page 
41
    41
  • Thumbnail: Page 
42
    42
  • Thumbnail: Page 
43
    43
  • Thumbnail: Page 
44
    44
  • Thumbnail: Page 
45
    45
  • Thumbnail: Page 
46
    46
  • Thumbnail: Page 
47
    47
  • Thumbnail: Page 
48
    48
  • Thumbnail: Page 
49
    49
  • Thumbnail: Page 
50
    50
  • Thumbnail: Page 
51
    51