Jo Ractliffe

Roadside stall on the way to Viana

Roadside stall on the way to Viana 2007, Digital silver gelatin print, 50 x 50 cm

Muchachos, Pomfret

Muchachos, Pomfret 2011, Silver gelatin print,

Raising the flag, Riemvasmaak

Raising the flag, Riemvasmaak 2013, Silver gelatin print,

Floor slab, temporary military base, Riemvasmaak

Floor slab, temporary military base, Riemvasmaak 2012, Silver gelatin print,

Platform, Schmidtsdrift

Platform, Schmidtsdrift 2012, Silver gelatin print, Image size: 36 x 45cm
© Copyright 2013, STEVENSON. All rights reserved.

Churchhaven (detail)

Churchhaven (detail) 1985, Photograph,
From the West Coast Drives series

Unidentified memorial in the desert, south of Namibe I

Unidentified memorial in the desert, south of Namibe I 2009, Hand-printed silver gelatin prints, Large size, image 45 x 56cm
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.

Mass grave at Cassinga II

Mass grave at Cassinga II 2009, Hand-printed silver gelatin prints, Small size, image 26 x 32.5cm
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.

Remains of the trench system, Cuban base, Namibe

Remains of the trench system, Cuban base, Namibe 2010, Hand-printed silver gelatin prints, Large size, each image 45 x 56cm
(I of III) Triptych © 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.

On the road to Cuito Cuanavale III

On the road to Cuito Cuanavale III 2010, Silver gelatin print,
© 2010 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved

Current Review(s)

The Borderlands

Jo Ractliffe at STEVENSON in Cape Town

Walking past the station in Cape Town last week, I noticed that several burly-looking municipal workers, holding large crowbars, were standing on the dismantled remains of the war memorial.  I went over to enquire from this group, who were prising the last few stones of the monument from the pavement, if they had any other acts of desecration on their work roster. My father had always warned me of the destructive nature of reformation iconoclasts but in all his foresight he never mentioned marauding thugs in the pay of the DA’s city council. 

25 July 2013 - 31 August 2013


'As Terras do Fim do Mundo'

Jo Ractliffe at STEVENSON in Cape Town

Over the past two years Ractliffe has been tracing the routes of the Border War fought by South Africa in Angola through the 1970s and 80s, travelling alongside ex-soldiers returning to the places where they fought for the first time since the SADF's withdrawal from the region. Her new body of black and white photographs follows 'Terreno Ocupado' (2007), in which she explored the social and spatial demographics of Angola's capital city of Luanda five years after the country's civil war had ended.

In 'As Terras do Fim do Mundo' (The Lands of the End of the World), Ractliffe captures the the traces of war focussing on the idea of landscape as pathology; how past violence manifests in the landscape of the present, both forensically and symbolically.

21 October 2010 - 27 November 2010

'As Terras do Fim do Mundo'

Jo Ractliffe at Walther Collection - Project Space NY

The first U.S. solo exhibition of South African photographer Jo Ractliffe, 'As Terras do Fim do Mundo' (The Lands of the End of the World) showcases nearly 60 of the artist's evocative black and white landscapes, presenting haunting images that reflect past tragedies in the sweeping landscapes of present day Angola.

Featuring a portfolio of platinum prints produced exclusively for the Walther Collection (based in Neu-Ulm/Burlafingen, Germany), the exhibition in the New York Project Space brings together images from Ractliffe's journeys through the war-torn remains of Angola in 2009 and 2010. Guided by a group of former South African Defence Force soldiers, on their first trip back to the Angolan countryside since the 1988 ceasefire at Cuito Cuanavale, Ractliffe documents what she terms as the 'landscape of leftovers' from the country's devastating 27-year civil war. Noted for their forensic and symbolic significance, these images capture eerily quiet countryside vistas, which, upon further inspection, reveal themselves to be unidentified memorials, unmarked mass graves, and minefields.

15 April 2011 - 15 July 2011

'Appropriated Landscapes'

Jo Ractliffe, Guy Tillim, Jane Alexander, David Goldblatt, Penny Siopis, Santu Mofokeng, Angela Ferreira, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi and Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse at The Walther Collection

'Appropriated Landscapes' explores landscape typologies in South Africa, Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique, and presents works by fourteen artists, including Jane Alexander, Ângela Ferreira, David Goldblatt, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Zanele Muholi, Jo Ractliffe, Penny Siopis, Mikhael Subotzky/Patrick Waterhouse and Guy Tillim.

Many of the artists presented in 'Appropriated Landscapes' have created images through topographical studies, explorations of nomadic peripheries and in-between spaces, or chronicles of social geography altered by divisive spatial planning and modern architecture. The concept of landscape here is not linked to historical notions of the picturesque and the sublime. Instead, the exhibition considers landscape as a prism of experience, a reflection of ideology, and a stage for the performance and perception of identity. Whether sweeping views, architectural compositions, or portraits, the varied works in the exhibition remind us of the density and richness of the notion of landscape, the complexity and subjectivity of its depiction - and ultimately, of our own spiritual, emotional, personal, and political relationship to it.

16 June 2011 - 13 May 2012

'Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity'

Jo Ractliffe, Guy Tillim, Kay Hassan, Berni Searle, David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, Hentie van der Merwe, Pieter Hugo, Zanele Muholi, Candice Breitz, Zwelethu Mthethwa and Nontsikelelo Veleko at The Walther Collection

The Walther Collection opens to the public on June 17, 2010 with 'Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity', introducing works from its African collection. Under the curatorial direction of Okwui Enwezor, the exhibition comprises a series of four projects filling all nine galleries in the three buildings of the new exhibition space in Burlafingen near Ulm, Southern Germany. The exhibition integrates the work of three generations of African artists and photographers with that of modern and contemporary German photography. This combination of African and German works will serve as a model for the kind of curatorial process that animates the character of the collecting program.

Works in the collection include those by Berni Searle, Candice Brietz, Nontsikelelo Veleko, Zanele Muholi, Hentie van der Merwe, David Goldblatt, Kay Hassan, Pieter Hugo, Guy Tillim, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Santu Mofokeng and Jo Ractliffe.

17 June 2010 - 17 October 2010

'For a Sustainable World': Recontres de Bamako 2011

Jo Ractliffe, Lien Botha, Brent Meistre, David Goldblatt, Hasan and Husain Essop, Daniel Naude, Pieter Hugo, Sabelo Mlangeni and Tracey Rose at Bamako Photography Biennial

The 2011 edition of the 'Rencontres' offers a reflection on the quest for a sustainable world, with special attention to the signs and forms of resistance possible. The strong adherence to the theme proposed only confirmed the social and political commitment of African artists. Environmental concerns, once limited to a small circle of visionaries, are now part of our daily lives and are at the heart of all debates. If economic liberalism, based on the consumer society, emerged to improve productivity and development, it also, and above all, increased inequality at the expense of basic respect for people and their environments.

In 2010, many African countries celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their independence. For many, this event was the time to take stock of national achievements and to look critically at political and social structures, as well as the distribution of wealth. For these 'Rencontres', we invited photographers and videographers to witness, to denounce, but also to identify areas for action, evidence of resistance or prevention, and the possibilities for the construction of a sustainable world. The variety of themes and languages ??chosen by the artists provides a survey of the diverse artistic production today on the continent and in the diaspora.

The Pan-African Exhibit, in the temporary exhibition rooms of the National Museum of Mali, brings together 45 photographers and 10 videographers from 27 countries, including a number from South Africa. Other South African artists, including Tracey Rose, appear in 'A World Beyond the World': The Sindika Dokolo Collection, and there is also a 'Monograph' exhibition of David Goldblatt's work.

01 November 2011 - 01 January 2012

'Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life'

Jo Ractliffe, Guy Tillim, Sue Williamson, Jane Alexander, Omar Badsha, David Goldblatt, Peter Magubane, Santu Mofokeng, Ernest Cole, Jurgen Schadeberg and William Kentridge at Haus der Kunst

'Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life' is a photographic exhibition examining the legacy of the apartheid system and how it penetrated even the most mundane aspects of social existence in South Africa, from housing, public amenities, and transportation to education, tourism, religion, and businesses. Complex, vivid, evocative, and dramatic, it includes nearly 500 photographs, films, books, magazines, newspapers, and assorted archival documents and covers more than 60 years of powerful photographic and visual production that forms part of the historical record of South Africa. Several photographic strategies, from documentary to reportage, social documentary to the photo essay, were each adopted to examine the effects and after-effects of apartheid's political, social, economic, and cultural legacy.

Curated by Okwui Enwezor with Rory Bester, the exhibition proposes a complex understanding of photography and the aesthetic power of the documentary form and honors the exceptional achievement of South African photographers.

From the work of members Drum Magazine in the 1950s to the Afrapix Collective in the 1980s to the reportage of the so-called Bang Bang Club, included in the exhibition are the exceptional works of pioneering South African photographers including Leon Levson, Eli Weinberg, David Goldblatt, Peter Magubane, Alf Khumalo, Jürgen Schadeberg, Sam Nzima, Ernest Cole, George Hallet, Omar Badsha, Gideon Mendel, Paul Weinberg, Kevin Carter, Joao Silva, and Greg Marinovich, and the responses of contemporary artists such as Adrian Piper, Sue Williamson, Jo Ractliffe, Jane Alexander, Santu Mofokeng, Guy Tillim, Hans Haacke, and William Kentridge. In addition, the exhibition will feature the works of a new generation of South African photographers such as Sabelo Mlangeni and Thabiso Sekgale, who explore the impact of apartheid as it continues to resonate today.

15 February 2013 - 26 May 2013

'The Borderlands'

Jo Ractliffe at STEVENSON in Cape Town

STEVENSON presents a solo exhibition of new work by Jo Ractliffe.

Since 2007 Ractliffe's photography has focussed on the aftermath of the war in Angola. 'Terreno Ocupado' (2008) explored the social and spatial demographics of Angola's capital city, Luanda, five years after the civil war had ended. That series was followed by 'As Terras do Fim do Mundo' (2010), which looked at the landscapes of war in southern Angola.

Ractliffe traces her interest in Angola back to the mid-1980s when she first read 'Another Day of Life' (1976), Ryszard Kapuscinski's account of events leading up to Angola's independence and subsequent civil war. The book resonated strongly with what was happening in South Africa at the time: great political upheaval and mass mobilisation against the apartheid government. Also, by then the South African Defence Force (SADF) was entrenched in Angola, fighting against the exiled Namibian liberation movement, SWAPO, and the Angolan army, FAPLA - a conflict later referred to in South Africa as the 'Border War'. Ractliffe writes:

For most South Africans Angola was perceived as a distant elsewhere - 'the border' - where brothers and boyfriends were sent as part of their military service. Now, over two decades since Namibia's independence and the withdrawal of SADF troops from the region, the 'Border War' remains something with which much ignorance and shame - for some, even betrayal - are associated.

During the making of 'As Terras do Fim do Mundo', I became curious about whether traces of the war could be found within South Africa's borders. I was interested in exploring the idea of a militarised landscape. But rather than spaces connected with the usual apparatus of South Africa's military, I wanted to search out sites that were intricately connected to that war.


Ractliffe identified and photographed at three primary locations: Pomfret, Kimberley (including Schmidtsdrift and Platfontein) and Riemvasmaak. All of these sites were occupied by the SADF during the mobilisation of the war and its aftermath. They also share histories of violence and dispossession during the apartheid era and, since our new democracy, reconciliation and redress. Ractliffe is interested in the intersection of these histories, how they impact now, in the present life of these places.

25 July 2013 - 31 August 2013

'Public Intimacy'

Jo Ractliffe, Athi Patra Ruga, David Goldblatt, Donna Kukama, Penny Siopis, Santu Mofokeng, Kemang Wa Luhelere and Others at YBCA

Disrupting expected images of South Africa, the 25 contemporary artists and collectives featured in 'Public Intimacy' eloquently explore the poetics and politics of the everyday. This collaboration with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents pictures from SFMOMA’s collection of South African photography alongside works in a broad range of media, including video, painting, sculpture, performance, and publications — most made in the last five years, and many on view for the first time on the West Coast. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, 'Public Intimacy' reveals the nuances of human interaction in a country still undergoing significant change, vividly showing public life there in a more complex light.


'Public Intimacy' includes works by Ian Berry, Ernest Cole, David Goldblatt, Handspring Puppet Company, Nicholas Hlobo, ijusi (Garth Walker), Anton Kannemeyer, William Kentridge, Donna Kukama, Terry Kurgan, Sabelo Mlangeni, Santu Mofokeng, Billy Monk, Zanele Muholi, Sello Pesa and Vaughn Sadie with Ntsoana Contemporary Dance Theatre, Cameron Platter, Lindeka Qampi, Jo Ractliffe, Athi-Patra Ruga, Berni Searle, Penny Siopis, Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, and Kemang Wa Lehulere.

21 February 2014 - 29 June 2014

'Apartheid & After'

Jo Ractliffe, David Goldblatt, Santu Mofokeng, Daniel Naude, Pieter Hugo, Sabelo Mlangeni and Mikhael Subotzky at Huis Marseille

Huis Marseille in Amsterdam presents 'Apartheid & After', a photography exhibition taking the work of David Goldblatt as its starting point and focusing on his successors, among them Jo Ractliffe, Guy Tillim, Pieter Hugo, Zanele Muholi, Sabelo Mlangeni and Daniel Naudé.

The exhibition 'Apartheid & After' reveals how powerfully the recent past can colour our perception of the present; this theme runs through the work of all twelve participating photographers after 1990. However powerful the individual images may be, this is photography with a hidden agenda – in a positive sense of the word. Knowledge of the past brings the present into sharp focus, and vice versa. It’s a tightrope act. Being a photographer in South Africa demands a sober, articulate, and skilled approach to the country’s burden of memory, trauma, and resulting guilt, as well as to the mysterious colouring and extravagant beauty of Africa so eagerly exploited by today’s tourist industry.
The exhibition 'Apartheid & After', which is based on an idea by David Goldblatt, aims to display the quality, diversity and dynamism of contemporary South African photography to a Dutch audience; there are, after all, historic links between the two countries. Today, twenty years after South Africa’s first-ever free elections were held in 1994, Goldblatt is not alone in having a solid international reputation; he is joined by Guy Tillim, Jo Ractliffe, Santu Mofokeng, Zanele Muholi and Pieter Hugo, as well as by a new cohort of younger photographers such as Mikhael Subotzky, Daniel Naudé, and Sabelo Mlangeni. The dynamism and breadth of contemporary South African photography is due in no small part to the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, where – under John Fleetwood’s leadership – many remarkable talents have emerged over a comparatively short period of time.

‘It is astonishing to think that until the beginning of the 1990s, merely two decades ago, modern and contemporary African photography was largely in the shadows.’ Okwui Enwezor in ‘Events of the Self: Portraiture and Social Identity: Contemporary African Photography from the Walther Collection’, Steidl 2013 p.23.

The show includes work by: Paul Alberts, Hugh Exton, David Goldblatt, Pieter Hugo, Santu Mofokeng, Sabelo Mlangeni, Zanele Muholi, Daniel Naudé, Jo Ractliffe, Mikhael Subotzky, Guy Tillim, Paul Weinberg, Graeme Williams and the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg

15 March 2014 - 08 June 2014

'Someone Else's Country'

Jo Ractliffe at Peabody Essex Museum

Photographer Jo Ractliffe (b. 1961) has spent the better part of the last decade photographing the effects of the prolonged civil war in Angola (1975-2002), both in the country itself and in her native South Africa. From the capital city of Luanda to the former battlefields where mines and disused military installations litter the landscape, the artist explores the poignant, humane and occasionally surreal vestiges of violence past, and examines the lives of the people and animals who now inhabit the land. Recently the artist has been photographing in South Africa itself, where encampments and mining facilities helped sustain that country's involvement in the war. Now largely decommissioned, these installations have become curious features of the landscape.

'Someone Else's Country' brings together a selection of Ractliffe's haunting black and white photographs inspired by the Angolan conflict. Beautiful and evocative, her work raises questions not just about the war, but also about the triumph and folly of human endeavor, showing us history on a human scale.

Located in the: Special Exhibition Galleries

11 October 2014 - 15 March 2015