31 May 2007

Santu Mofokeng - Billboards

"Democracy is Forever" (2003) © Santu Mofokeng

"Township Billboard" (2002) © Santu Mofokeng

"Wiinter in Tembisa" (1989) © Santu Mofokeng


Santu Mofokeng (b. 1956) is a South African photographer who has, over the years, been preoccupied with the politics of representation across classes and races in South Africa. The three images above are part of his "Rethinking Landscapes" series which feature billboards (although none about sex or cell phones). Here is part of his statement from a 2004 exhibition shown in Berlin/Vienna/Johannesburg:

"Billboards have been the medium of communication between the rulers and the denizens of townships since the beginning. The billboard is a fact and feature of township landscape. It is a relic from the times when Africans were subjects of power and the township was a restricted area, subject to laws, municipality by laws and ordinances regulating people´s movements and governing who may or may not enter the township. It is without irony when I say that billboards can be used as reference points when plotting the history and development of the township. Billboards capture and encapsulate ideology, the social, economic and political climate at any given time. They retain their appeal for social engineering. (...) At the high speed of a minibus taxi, the billboards roll by like flipping pages in a book. The retina registers arcane and inane messages about sex and cell-phones, mostly sex and cell-phones. Perhaps this is a coincidence. I wonder."

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