Legendary photographer Santu Mofokeng dies

Internationally acclaimed social documentary photographer Santu Mofokeng and his wife Boitumelo in this file picture, when he was conferred with an honorary doctorate in Literature by the University of Witwatersrand in 2016.
Internationally acclaimed social documentary photographer Santu Mofokeng and his wife Boitumelo in this file picture, when he was conferred with an honorary doctorate in Literature by the University of Witwatersrand in 2016.
Image: Peter Mogaki

Celebrated documentary photographer and mentor Santu Mofokeng has  died at the age of 63.

According to a family statement, Mofokeng  died on Sunday in the presence of his loving family.

The seasoned lensman who is known for documenting religious and cultural activities is hailed as one of the greatest photographers.

Writer and art critic Sandile Ngidi defined Mofokeng as one of the best South African documentary photographers. Ngidi reminisced about a documentary Mofokeng did on people preaching in trains.

“Santu Mofokeng belonged to a committed generation of photographers that gained prominence in the alternative media in the 80s and 90s. This series is on train churches. Salutes!”

The seasoned photographer showed interest in photography at a young age after  his sisters gave him his first camera. His  career began as a street photographer and  in 1987 he joined the New Nation newspaper.

Mofokeng horned his skills working for  Afrapix collective and went on to carve an international career that has won him glowing accolades which include the Ernest Cole Award (1991).

The 1st Mother Jones award for Africa (1991) and the Prince Claus Award (2009).In 2016, University of Wits honoured him with a Honorary Doctorate. His visual stories include research journals, essays and published photography books, which continue to make a critical contribution to the learning and teaching of photography in South Africa.

Zoé Samudzi tweeted: “I went to bed having just heard about Santu Mofokeng’s passing and woke up thinking about him. He was a man with extraordinary vision, an extraordinary ability to capture a layered subject within layered materiality.

"He showed us time and again that the camera can capture spirit.”

The family said it will have a private funeral. Details of the public memorial will be shared once confirmed.

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