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Afropunk Countercultures in the South African Townships

Photography from Karabo Mooki

"The chaotic energy of Punk will never fade. Generation after generation of youth, especially those who know what hardship means, will be drawn to its liberatory force. Punk as an energy and an attitude holds power to account. Its explosive, magnetic nature thrives in spaces of rebellion, and through the photographs of Karabo Mooki, we are reminded that it is the duty of youth to rebel, to make things new, and to turn the tide on the old ways of being."
— Mark Sealy, Director of Autograph

In this series of work, titled Dogg Pound Days, South African artist Karabo Mooki explores the growth of the skateboarding and Afropunk countercultures in Soweto, a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg where Mooki was born and lived as a child, before moving to the suburbs of the city. Through his photography, Mooki documents the social and cultural forces bringing together black and white youth, to explore the breakdown of segregated South Africa in this post-Apartheid era. Keep scrolling to see a selection of works from the series, with commentary from Mooki. 

The Kids Are Alright, Rockville, Soweto, 2018

Curious kids from the neighbourhood try to get a glimpse of a punk show.

Passop (Beware), Dube, Soweto, 2016

South Africa’s Black youth converge for bi-monthly punk shows at the 'Dogg Pound', hosted at the home of the band TCIYF. Curious onlookers are invited to a punk show, provided with fair warning: you enter at your own risk!

Storm in a Teacup, Rockville, Soweto, 2016

TCIYF frontman, Puleng Seloane, ramps up the energy by emerging himself in the midst of the chaos and bringing the intimacy of the band's performances to new heights.

Live and Let Live, 2016

In true punk rock style, Thula 'Stroof' Sizwe - guitarist of TCIYF - continues to perform after being electrocuted by a short-circuited fuse.

Unified, Rockville, Soweto, 2016

Members of Free x Money are joined on the mic by TCIYF’s Thula 'Stroof' Sizwe. Upon invitation from TCIYF, white punk, heavy metal and hardcore bands have come out to perform in Soweto.

TCIYF have realised that since the shows don't come to them, they need to bring the shows to the township, bridging communities and giving birth to a cross-pollination of talents beyond racial and economic borders. Although the visit may seem taboo or unusual and new to many, there is a deep sense of hospitality and appreciation from both the hosts and the visiting residents.

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The Pound, Dube, Soweto, 2016

Thula 'Stoof' Sizwe emerges from the Dogg Pound, gearing up to spend the day skating in the bustling township.

In Crust We Trust, Soweto, 2016

Searching for street spots to skate in Soweto is challenging, both physically due to the lack of infrastructure and attitudinally due to the general population’s misperception of skate culture as one that is destructive and dangerous.

The Soweto Skate Society have made it their mission to shatter the belief that skateboarding culture can only exist in spaces outside of the township.

The fierce and graceful act of skating through the township shows their die hard DIY mentality and determination to harness a culture in their own backyard.

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Fatherless Kids, Dube, Soweto, 2016

There is a growing community of skateboarders in Soweto, encouraged by the community of punk rockers who have supported the youth to learn how to skate and connect with one another. The Soweto Skate Society and TCIYF have been a driving force for creating safer spaces for Black youth to thrive.

Outside of the Dogg Pound, kids come to show off their new street skating skills before the mayhem of a punk show is revealed behind welcoming doors.

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They Call Me Anarchy, Dube, Soweto, 2016

Anarchy is a close friend of the band, a born rock 'n' roller and one of the inspirations for rock in Soweto.

Lovers Rock, Dube, Soweto, 2016

Shared love and passion for Black punk rock from the township of Soweto brings these two young lovers together. Enthralled with the punk lifestyle and the rock revolution in Soweto, their kinship and romance lives through the music.

Skate or Die, Dube, Soweto, 2016

Affiliates of the Skate Society Soweto turn up in droves to support local punk shows.

Drifting, Dube, Soweto, 2016

Making do with what they could afford is how the band used to live. TCIYF has come a long way from recording songs on their smartphones. The sounds of Thula 'Stroof' Sizwe’s soulful blues and rock and roll reverberate out from the chambers of the garage on a Sunday afternoon at the Dogg Pound.

Punk Rocking Against Power Outages, Rockville, Soweto, 2024

Abdula Skink, front man of Twenty One Children, celebrates the band’s birthday, body slamming and rolling around in the red dust amongst stomping boots. Government issued load shedding or power outages leave large parts of South Africa in darkness for hours and interrupt gigs, but as the blackout ends, the band seizes the opportunity to send shockwaves through Soweto.

Social Consonance, Johannesburg, 2024

Since Covid-19 there has been a resurgence of Black punk rock communities. Members of the band Twenty One Children have reignited a new wave of punk rock, providing a bridge from the township of Soweto into the inner city of Johannesburg. The energy is contagious and Soweto’s rock revolution is spreading; the youth are gathering and taking up space.

Shameless, Johannesburg, 2024

Musa Zwane from the band Shameless blows audiences away with his unique sound, combining Afro-rock with traditional Zulu music. It’s impossible for audiences not to want to dance, sing and mosh along. The fire of the rock revolution burns freely and welcomes all to add their energy as an accelerant.

Awethu!, Johannesburg, 2024

At the forefront of a moshpit, Mbali and Jana break through the gender barriers in South Africa's punk rock scene.

The Right to Love, Johannesburg, 2024

Before South Africa became a democratic state, interracial couples had to make do with a courtship which consisted of of stolen kisses, secret messages, clandestine dates in faraway suburbs and elopement. Thirty years later, reform and the abolition of laws created to divide and cause hate has granted South African citizens the right to live in a country with civil rights.

The freedom to love beyond racial restrictions is celebrated amongst the youth that make up the countercultural communities of afro-punk spaces in Johannesburg.

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An Ode to the Gods, Rockville, Soweto, 2016

Puleng sends a message of love into the streets of Rockville, proclaiming "we gotta pay respect to the gods of beer and punk" in a TCIYF post-performance ritual.

about the artist


Karabo Mooki

Karabo Mooki is a photographer and filmmaker, born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mooki is an internationally recognised talent and has won multiple industry awards for his photojournalism. His work follows unique narratives and depicts authentic life in South Africa, exploring race, gender, sexuality, and class. With his photographs in high demand as fine art prints, Mooki’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at Art Basel in Miami, New York, Sweden, Denmark, Cape Town, London, New Zealand, and Berlin. Featured in publications such as Rolling Stone and Huck, Mooki is a voice for an unapologetic generation. You can follow the artist on Instagram.

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The artist is grateful for the support of Black Artists' Networks in Dialogue (BAND) Gallery.

Banner image: Karabo Mooki, Live and Let Live [detail], 2016. Copyright and courtesy of the artist.

Images on page all copyright and courtesy of the artist.

Discover more images: 1) Syd Shelton, New Cross Road, Lewisham [detail], London 1977. Image copyright and courtesy the artist. 2) Syd Shelton, The Specials Fans [detail], RAR / Anti-Nazi League Carnival, Leeds, 1981. Image copyright and courtesy the artist.