This week the SA arts community mourned the passing of Santu Mofokeng, one of our most important photographers over the past four decades. Mofokeng’s artistic and institutional influence shaped both photojournalism as a practice and wider perceptions about photography in the gallery space — though, as Sean O’Toole wrote five years ago, “this vivid and democratic medium is not widely collected” in this country.

O’Toole’s observation was made in an earlier moment of grief: in the wake of the suicide of Thabiso Sekgala in 2014. Unlike Mofokeng, whose death at the age of 64 followed a long career in which his enormous body of work was widely published and exhibited, when the 33-year-old Sekgala took his life he had just begun to establish himself — though, as O’Toole noted at the time, he was “arguably the brightest hope among a new generation of photographers”.

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