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About the Exhibition

Standard Bank Gallery presents:

PHOTOGRAPHS IN OUR MOTHER TONGUE

This exhibition showcases photographs from the Standard Bank Corporate Art Collection collected between 2003 & 2017, examining themes such as identity, politics, feminism, land ownership, violence as well as other social commentary and social injustices.

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"In addition to capturing the public imagination, the photographs also explore the idea of revisiting history as a way of understanding and making sense of the present.

-DR. SAME MDLULI
Standard Bank Gallery Curator

ABOVE: Pieter Hugo, Thina Lucy Manebaneba with her son Samuel Mabolabola and her brother Enos Manebaneba in their living room after church, 2007

Exhibition Highlights

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SANTU MOFOKENG

Born in 1956, Santu Mofokeng grew up in and around Soweto (Johannesburg), spending most of his childhood in Orlando East. Mofokeng’s initial experiences with photography were as a teen when one of his sisters gave him his first camera. He grew up in poverty and spent his school years at the Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto; one of the hotbeds of the violently suppressed Soweto uprising in 1976. While still a teenager, he began his career as a street photographer and went on to work as an assistant in a darkroom, and then became a news photographer.

In 1985, Santu Mofokeng joined and 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.

Two years later, in 1987 he was appointed at the New Nation newspaper. From 1988 to 1998 he worked as a documentary photographer and researcher for the African Studies Institute’s Oral History Project, at the University of the Witwatersrand, and focused on producing images representing the lives of people in their homes and other aspects of daily life. Mofokeng's interest is in the unconventional. A photographic enquiry into spirituality has continued throughout his career and produced the evocative series Chasing Shadows.

His explorations of landscape invested with spiritual significance form part of a wider enquiry into space and belonging, the political meaning of landscape in relation to ownership, power and memory. His recent urban landscapes go beyond political and social commentary into meditations on ‘existential madness – the absurdities of living’.

Mofokeng resides and works in Johannesburg. He has taught photography at the Market Photo Workshop and at the University of the Witwatersrand. Between 1989 and 2010, Mofokeng has held over twenty solo exhibitions and has participated in numerous select group and collaborative exhibitions locally and around the world. Mofokeng has curated photography exhibitions in South Africa, France and Mali.

Between 1990 and 2009 he received numerous awards and fellowships for photography including the Ernest Cole Scholarship to study at the International Centre for Photography in New York. He has won many awards and fellowships in Africa, the United States and Germany. Mofokeng has shared his vision and ideas at a number of seminars, symposiums and panel discussions around the world; he has been the instigator of and collaborator with many photographic showcases.

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"We were looking for Muslim artists as guidance and references, but we couldn't find any. So we felt that we were stepping into new territory, and creating history as we were making the art."

-HASAN ESSOP

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HASAN & HUSAIN ESSOP

Hasan and Husain Essop are artists whose work was exhibited as part of the ‘Athlone in Mind’ exhibition at the Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town. This exhibition of commissioned contemporary art was a group show curated by Dr Kurt Campbell. The exhibition, book and digital platform take the place of Athlone to explore new ways of imagining and thinking about marginalised sites of creativity and art production. ‘Athlone in Mind’ engages diverse artistic practices, cinematic experiments and scholarly essays that explore the challenge to artistic practice for imagining space in ways that exceed and undo apartheid’s spatial formations and temporal markers.

The artworks, videos, digital and photographic installations and essays in the book constitute Athlone as a question through an expansive, fluid and composite conception of the relationship between images, thought and place. Hasan and Husain Essop are twin brothers (born 1985, Cape Town) and currently live and work in Cape Town.

They graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Art, majoring in Printmaking and Photography respectively, and a Postgraduate diploma in Art in 2009. Recipients of the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art, they exhibited their collaborative photographic series Unrest at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Standard Bank Gallery, National Arts Festival and Iziko Museum, among other venues in South Africa. Recent exhibitions include Remembrance at Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2012), Indelible Marks at Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Dubai (2011), Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2011) and Peek-a-boo Current South Africa at Helsinki Art Museum, Finland (2011). Their works are held in several private and public collections such as the Deutsche Bank Collection, Spier Art Collection, Durban Art Gallery and Iziko South African National Gallery. Hasan and Husain Essop will offer large format high-resolution photographs that fix and disrupt our view of those who traverse Athlone on a daily basis. Hasan and Husain Essop produce large format digital images and often include themselves in the compositions. They are committed to interrogating ideas of nationalism and indigeneity. These artists have previously produced work related to the suburb of Athlone and the attendant challenges those who live there face daily.

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"I always thought that I'm a frustrated painter, but painting was taking too long, so photography became the medium I would work in. "

-NATASHA CHRISTOPHER

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BERNI SEARLE

Berni Searle was born in 1964 in Cape Town. She received her Master of Art in Fine Art (MFA) from the University of Cape Town (1992-95). She was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art (BAFA) from the same institution (1984-7). Originally working as a sculptor, she produced a work titled Illusions of Identity Notions of Nationhood for her Masters degree. In a conversation with Kathryn Smith in 2000, Searle suggested that this work “dealt with issues around nationalisms and nationhood in the face of a rapidly transforming culture. It laid the foundations for [her] explorations into an ‘unfixed’ conception of ‘identity’, and the creation of ambiguous spaces in which to consider these issues.”

Later Searle made the move to utilise large scale digital photographic prints and found materials to make installations. She uses time-based media such as photography, video and film as a tool to capture her work with performative narratives and the self as a figure to embody history, land-memory and place. Besides dealing with South African History, awareness of her own skin and of those around her has been a recurring theme in her work, as seen in the Colour Me series which was made in 1998. Her work was included in the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale, the 1998 Cairo Biennale, and the 2001 and 2005 Venice Biennales. Searle received a UNESCO award in 1998, the Minister of Culture prize at the Dak’art 2000 Biennale and was nominated for the FNB VITA Art Award 2000 as well as the Daimler-Chrysler Award for South African Contemporary Art in 2000. In 2001, she was awarded a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship.

She was the Standard Bank Young Artist in 2003 and shortlisted for the first Artes Mundi award in 2004. Searle held four solo exhibitions at the Stevenson Gallery between 2004 and 2008. From 2006 – 2007 her solo exhibition ‘Approach’ travelled to Krannert Museum, Champaign, Illinois, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, SA and the USF Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa, Florida, USA. In 2014 Searle was included in two major exhibitions in the USA, ‘Earth Matters’ at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, and ‘Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa’ at the Yerba Buena Center with the Arts in conjunction with SFMOMA in San Francisco.

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"I was looking at transition that was happening around the city.There's no direct transport from the townships... So we had to come first to the city, and transit to the place of work. The city became our new home. "

-ANDREW TSHABANGU

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DAVID GOLDBLATT

David Goldblatt (1930 – 2018) was born in Randfontein, a small mining town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. He began exploring the medium of photography after matriculating in 1948 but only formally made photography his profession after his father died in 1962 and the family business, a mining concession store, was sold. In the years that followed, while Goldblatt supported his family through photography commissions and magazine work, he produced more than ten major photographic series, documenting the people, landscapes and structures of South Africa. In 1989, Goldblatt founded the Market Photography Workshop, a training institution in Johannesburg, for aspiring photographers.

In 1998 he was the first South African to have a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2001, a retrospective of his work, David Goldblatt Fifty-One Years began a tour of galleries and museums. He was one of the few South African artists to exhibit at Documenta 11 (2002) and Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel, Germany. He has held solo exhibitions at the Jewish Museum and the New Museum, both in New York. His work was included in the exhibition ILLUMInations at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 and has featured on shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Barbican Centre in London. In 2017, Goldblatt installed a series of portraits from his photographic essay Ex- Offenders in former prisons in Birmingham and Manchester.

The portraits depict men and women, from South African and the UK, at the scene of their crimes, with accompanying texts that relate the subjects’ stories in their words. In the last year of his life, two major retrospectives were opened at Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The Goldblatt Archive is held by Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. Goldblatt is the recipient of the 2006 Hasselblad award, the 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, the 2013 ICP Infinity Award and in 2016, he was awarded the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of France.

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