Santu Mofokeng


Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020) began taking portraits on the streets of Soweto at the age of seventeen. He became a protégé of the acclaimed South African photographer David Goldblatt and joined the South African Afrapix collective in 1985.

“Afrapix gave me a home. It provided me with money to buy a camera and film in order to document Soweto and the rising discontent in the townships.” – Santu Mofokeng

Mofokeng’s images and texts address subjects like history and land, memory and spirituality. He was an artist who helped shape the path of South African photography. Mofokeng was a documentarian who resisted easy categorization, creating an œuvre that addresses monumental topics while retaining a sense of lightness and poetry.

From 1988 to 1998 Santu Mofokeng worked as a photographer and researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Research at the University of Witwatersrand. He wrote essays, which he interspersed with the photographic works he published. For his seminal project “Black Photo Album/Look at Me: 1890-1950,” which debuted at the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale, he compiled a slide show of retouched studio portraits of middle-class black South Africans taken between 1890 to 1950. 

Santu Mofokeng’s works have been exhibited in international museums such as Jeu de Paume, Paris; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; Bergen Kunsthal, Norway and The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm furthermore his works are in the collections of renowned museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris and MMK – Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt.


Born 1956 in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa

Died 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa

Grants & Awards


Honorary Doctorate, WITS University, Johannesburg, South Africa

International Photography Prize, Fondazione Fotografia Modena, Italy


Prince Claus Lauriat, Netherlands


Ruth First Fellowship, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


DAAD Fellowship, Berlin, Germany


DAAD Fellowship, Worpswede, Germany

Contre Jour Residency, Marseille, France


Künstlerhaus Worpswede Fellowship, Germany


Short-listed for the FNB Vita Award for the Visual Arts, Johannesburg, South Africa


1st Mother Jones Award for Africa, South Africa


Ernest Cole Scholarship, for study at the International Center of Photography, New York City, USA


AA Vita Award Nomination for Like Shifting Sand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Solo Exhibitions


Santu Mofokeng: Billboards, Zander Galerie, Cologne, Germany


Santu Mofokeng: Stories. Kunsthaus Göttingen, Germany

2021 – 2022

Santu Mofokeng and David Goldblatt: Beyond the Binary, The Walther Collection, Neu Ulm, Germany


Santu Mofokeng: Stories, Foam Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands


Santu Mofokeng: Stories. Kliptown Community Centre, Soweto, South Africa


Santu Mofokeng. A Silent Solitude. Fondazione Fotografia Modena, Modena Foro Boario, Italy


Santu Mofokeng: A Metaphorical Biography, The Walther Collection Project Space, New York Chelsea, New York, USA


Chasing Shadows/Santu Mofokeng, thirty years of photographic essays, Bergen Kunsthall, Norway; Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa


Chasing Shadows, Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp, Belgium; Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway


Let’s Talk, Arts on Main, Johannesburg, South Africa

Remaining Past, Minshar Art Institute, Tel Aviv, Israel

Chasing Shadows, Anne Arbor Institute of Humanities, Michigan, USA


Mofokeng survey exhibition, Autograph ABP, London, UK


Santu Mofokeng’s Landscapes, Warren Siebrits, Johannesburg, South Africa

Homeland Security, Johannesburg Art Museum, South Africa


Invoice, Standard Bank Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa


Invoice Iziko, South African National Art Museum, Cape Town, South Africa


Rethinking Landscape, Centre photographique d’Ile-de-France (CPIF), Pontault-Combault, France

Santu Mofokeng, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa

Santu Mofokeng, David Krut Projects, New York City, USA


Chasing Shadows, Memling Museum, Bruges, Belgium


Sad Landscapes, Camouflage Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Chasing Shadows, Transparencies International, Berlin, Germany


Black Photo Album/Look at Me, FNAC Montparnasse, France


Lunarscapes, Netherlands Photo Institute, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Chasing Shadows, Netherlands Photo Institute, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Black Photo Album/Look at Me, Netherlands Photo Institute, Rotterdam, Netherlands


Chasing Shadows, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Distorting Mirror/Townships Imagined, Worker’s Library, Johannesburg, South Africa


Rumours/The Bloemhof Portfolio, Market Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa


Like Shifting Sand, Market Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa

Group Exhibitions


A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam, Niederlande

2023 – 2024

A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, Tate Modern, London,UK


Santu Mofokeng & David Goldblatt: Beyond The Binary, The Walter Collection, Neu- Ulm, Germany

Trace – Formations of Likeness. Photography and Video from The Walther Collection, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany

2022 – 2023

Hollow Earth: Art, Caves & Subterranean Imaginary, Nottingham Contemporary, UK


Africa. The Ecstatic Religions, Chemins du patrimoine en Finistère, Daoulas, France

The Show is Over, South London Gallery, UK


Handle With Care, Javett-UP Pretoria, South Africa

2020 – 2021

African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and Other, Fotofest Biennal, Houston, USA


Who is gazing?, Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, France


Apologia della Storia – The Historian’s Craft, ICA Milano, Milan, Italy

2018 – 2019

Crossing Night, Idris Niam Foundation, Mexico City, Mexico

Afrique. Les religions de l’extase, Musée d’ethnographie de Genève, Switzerland


Days without a Night, Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, India

The Kochi-Musiris Biennale 2018, Fort Kochi, Kerala, India

Image profile: Aspects of the Documentary in MMK’s Photography Collection MMK, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt – ZOLLAMT, Frankfurt, Germany

2017 – 2018

Space and Photography, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Mönchsberg Salzburg, Austria


Behold The Man, Kunstmuseum Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen Magdeburg Magdeburg, Germany

Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier, Fondation Louis Vuitton Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France

The Extended Moment, Carlier | Gebauer, Berlin, Germany

2016 – 2017

The force of photography. Works from the Museion Collection, Museion, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Bolzano, Italy

25 years: MMK Museum of Modern Art, MMK, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, Germany


Festival Internacional de Fotografia, SCAN, Tarragona

Taipei Biennial, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan

Home Truths, IZIKO South African National Gallery, South Africa

Dubai Photo 2016 Exhibition, Dubai

South Africa, The British Museum, London, UK

2015 – 2016

Après Eden: The Walther Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France


Álbum de Família, Centro Municipal de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

Between States of Emergency, Nelson Mandela Foundation, Johannesburg, South Africa

2015 – 2016

The Problem of God, K21-Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf, Germany


Looking Back/Looking Forward, FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Spatial Stories: Topographies of Change in Africa, Center for Visual Art, Metropolitan State University of Denver, USA

Après Eden: The Walther Collection, La Maison Rouge, Paris, France

Formes Biographiques, Carré d’Art, Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France

2014 – 2015

INPUT / OUTPUT – Interface Worpswede, Worpswede Museen, Germany


Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA

Apartheid and After, Huis Marseille Museum door Fotografie, Amsterdam, Netherlands

8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany

SITE: Photography and National Trauma in South Africa, GUS University Stellenbosch Art Gallery, South Africa

Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, Fowler Museum at UCLA Los Angeles, California, USA

Contemporary Art/South Africa, Yale University Art Gallery New Haven, USA

2013 – 2014

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, International Centre of Photography, New York; Haus der Kunst, Munich; Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan; Museum Africa, Johannesburg

Biographical Forms – Construction and Individual Mythology, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa, Smithsonian, Washington DC, USA


German Pavilion, 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

African Photography from The Walther Collection Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive The Walter Collection, Ulm, Germany

Umhlaba Wethu This is Our Land: 100 year commemoration of the 1913 Land Act, South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa

A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, Centre Pompidou – Cinema 2, Paris, France

African Photography from East, West and South Africa, The National Gallery of Nyanza, Rwanda

My Joburg: Short Change, a photography exhibition of work by students and alumni of the Market Photo Workshop, La Maison Rouge, Paris

2012 – 2013

Household Narratives. Beyond the Family Album, Diputación de Huesca, Spain

Poetry and Dream Collection Display, Tate Modern, London, UK


Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

Events of the Self Portraiture and Social Identity, The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany

(Re)construções: Arte Contemporânea de África do Sul, Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói, Brasil


Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa since 1950. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, USA

Animism, Extra City/M HKA, Antwerp; Kunsthalle Bern; Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria

Apartheid – Widerstand – Freiheit: Südafrikanische Fotografie 1950-2010. Willy-Brandt-Haus, Berlin, Germany


The Symbolic Efficiency of the Frame, T.IC.A.B. – Tirana International Contemporary Art Biannual, Albania

Imaginar_historiar, XVI Jornadas de Estudio de la Imagen, Madrid, Spain

Joburg Art Fair, Warren Siebrits, Johannesburg, South Africa

Urban Reflections, Stills Scotland’s Centre for Photography, Edinburgh, UK


Home Lands – Land Marks: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Haunch of Venison, London, UK

Rationalism of Nationalism, Warren Siebrits, Johannesburg, South Africa


52nd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy

Climate Change, Ruth First Fellowship Award Conference, Atlas Studios, Johannesburg, South Africa

Apartheid: The South African Mirror, Centre de Cultura, Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain

Uniform: South Africa’s New Clothes, Spanierman Modern, New York, USA

Reality Check: Zeitgenössische Fotokunst aus Südafrika, Neue Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; Kunstmuseum Bochum; Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz; Galerie der Stadt Sindelfingen, Germany; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


Exorcising Exoticism, Contemporary Art Exhibition, Taipei, Taiwan

1st Trienal de Luanda, Angola

Black, Brown+ White, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria

2005 – 2006

Unsettled, Durban Art Callery; Reykjavik Museum of Photography; Kristianstads Konsthall, Sweden; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen, Denmark


10 Years, 100 Artists: Art in Democratic South Africa, Bell-Roberts Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


Post! Contemporary South African Photography, Tama Art University Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Forbidden City International Photography Exhibition, Beijing, China

New Identities: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Museum Bochum, Germany; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa

Ralentir vite, le Plateau/Frac Ile-de-France, Paris, France

Photography from South Africa, Christine Koenig Galerie, Vienna, Austria

2004 – 2007

Afrika Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf, Germany; Hayward Gallery, London, UK; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden


5th Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine, Bamako, Mali

6th Sharjah International Biennal, UAE


documenta 11, Kassel, Germany

25th Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brasil

African Advertising Art, Iwalewa House, University of Bayreuth, Germany

Surviving Apartheid, Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris, France

Dislocation: Installations from South Africa, Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid; Sala Rekalde, Bilbao, Spain


The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa 1945-1994, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany; Haus der Kulturen der Welt/Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany; MoMA PSI, New York, USA; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, USA

Africas: The Artist and the City, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Spain


Unplugged V, Market Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa

Man + Space, Gwanjiu Biennale, South Korea

Translation/Seduction/Displacement, White Box Gallery, New York, USA; Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland, USA

The Song of the Earth: Biennals in Dialogue, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

Positions Attitudes Actions, 4th Foto Biennale Rotterdam, Netherlands

L’etat des Choses, Kunst-Werke, Berlin, Germany

Rhizomes of Memory, Henie Onstad Kuntsenter, Oslo, Norway


Africa by Africa: A Photographic View, Barbican Centre, London, UK; Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary

Identity and Environment, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary

A South Photographs collective exhibition, Area Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa


Blank_Architecture, apartheid and after, Nederlands Architecture Institute Rotterdam, Netherlands

3rd Recontres de la Photographie Africaine, Bamako, Mali

Dreams and Clouds, KultuurHuset, Stockholm, Sweden

Democracy’s Images, Bild Museet, Umea, Sweden


Alternating Currents, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa


In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present, Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA

Images of Africa Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark

Standard Bank National Festival of the Art, Grahamstown, South Africa

Colors: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Haus Der Kulturen Der Welt, Berlin, Germany


Transitions: Contemporary Art from South Africa, F-Stop Gallery, Bath, UK

The Third International Photographic Biennale, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Panoramas of Passage, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown, South Africa

Les assises de l’Afrique au Siege de l’UNESCO, Paris, France

South African Photography, with Peter Magubane, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen Gallery, Bonn, Germany


1es Recontres de la Photographie Africaine, Bamako, Mali

This Land is our Land, Market Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa


Happy Sad Land, Herten Fotofestival – Herten, Germany

In Transit, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USA

Montage ’93 – International Festival of the Image, Rochester, New York

FNAC – Mother Jones Award winners 1992 – Light Factory Gallery, North Carolina, USA


AA Vita ‘Art Now’, Johannesburg Art Gallery, South Africa

Alltag schwarz-weiss: Fünf Fotografinnen und Fotografen aus Südafrika, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst, Berlin, Germany


Zabalaza Cultural Festival, London, UK

History Workshop Open Day Festival, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Women’s Exhibition, Malibongwe Women’s Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Going Home, with Paul Weinberg, Canon Image Centre, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Black Sash Human Rights Exhibition, Market Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa

Selected Publications


Santu Mofokeng. Stories, Steidl, Göttingen, Germany


Santu Mofokeng. Stories: 2-4, Steidl, Göttingen, Germany


Santu Mofokeng. Stories: 1, Steidl, Göttingen, Germany

Graves 2012, MAKER, Johannesburg, South Africa


Santu Mofokeng: The Black Photo Album/Look at me 1890-1950, Steidl, Göttingen, Germany


Chasing Shadows, Santu Mofokeng, Thirty Years of Photographic Essays (monograph), Prestel Verlag, Munich, Germany



Compound to Kraal: Salvaging and Refiguring the Duggan-Cronin Collection, with Thierry Secretan, The Workers’ Library and Museum, Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa


Fin de Sieclè, (Naivety in SA documentary Photography – Andrew Tshabangu and Lien Botha.) Nantes Festival, France


2nd Recontre de la Photographie Africaine, with Marilyn Martin, Bamako, Mali






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