An alternative way of seeing: Challenging photographic stereotypes of HIV/AIDS in South Africa
Since the 1980s photographs have played an important role in shaping public perceptions of HIV/AIDS. News reporting on HIV/AIDS has tended to rely on stereotypes which have limited understanding of the epidemic and how it affects different parts of the world. These stereotypes have also tended to reinforce existing prejudices against specific groups of people and regions. In particular, the photographic representation of HIV/AIDS in Africa has largely reproduced familiar images of Africans as ‘victims’. South African photographer Santu Mofokeng provides a radical and alternative way of seeing, and thinking about, the epidemic. This paper considers how Mofokeng’s work provides an opportunity to reflect on the spiritual and social challenges raised by the HIV epidemic in South Africa. Mofokeng’s work strongly resists and challenges stereotypes associated with HIV/AIDS in Africa and offers a powerful alternative way of visually and intellectually engaging with the epidemic.