This exhibition covers almost twenty-five years of Andrew Tshabangu’s distinctive black-and-white photography. Tshabangu is recognised as one of South Africa’s most important photographers; his work can be situated in a trajectory that includes David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, the Afrapix Collective and the Market Photo Workshop.
Many of Tshabangu’s photographs might be described as “documentary” in their style and subject matter, yet the realism typically associated with photographic practice is matched in Tshabangu’s work by an otherworldly quality. Moreover, the viewer’s engagement with the subject is framed, interrupted, blurred or fragmented as the photographer experiments with ways of seeing and interpreting that much-contested place and time, “post-apartheid South Africa”.
Born in Soweto in 1966, Tshabangu is particularly drawn to the people, urban landscapes and domestic spaces of the city of Johannesburg (it is especially fitting that his work is exhibited at the Standard Bank Gallery in the city’s CBD). As Hlonipha Mokoena has noted, Tshabangu’s photographs “preserve the perpetually changing Joburg”, a practice at odds with “a world that erases and forgets”. He is as fascinated by religious pilgrimages and devout ceremonies as by more mundane rituals – daily activities like washing clothes, baking bread, carrying firewood, waiting for transport or brewing beer.
The scope of the exhibition extends beyond greater Johannesburg, and indeed beyond South Africa’s borders. Tshabangu has travelled widely, making and studying new “footprints”. In Durban and, further up the African east coast, in Mozambique and Malawi, on Réunion Island and even as far afield as New York City, Tshabangu has encountered landscapes and seascapes, cultures and peoples far removed from landlocked Jozi.
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