Karabo Mooki documents South Africa’s punk rock movement, debunking stereotypes of the genre

The photographer’s series Dog Pound Days celebrates “Black youth and authenticity” in Soweto’s music scene, redefining what it means to be punk-rock in an often one-dimensional “only white-accessible genre”.

17 June 2024

Since we last caught up with the Johannesburg-based photographer, Karabo Mooki has focused his photographic practice on a new visual enquiry into “the unexpected growth of influential youth culture” that has been pouring out of South Africa’s township of Soweto. In this township on the fringes of Johannesburg, “punk rock and skateboarding is keeping the youth inspired and unafraid of pursuing their dreams in an environment that is not receptive to ‘white music and white sports’, without public scrutiny or fear of being stereotyped”, Karabo shares.

Focused on “breaking down the monolith of Black stereotypes”, the photographer set out to document what he sees as “unlikely role models” from Soweto-based punk bands who are influencing youth culture in the township of his childhood and beyond. These rebellious figures are “bridging borders through what many may deem as anti-establishment and non con-formative forms of self expression”, Karabo says. Drawn to the communities growing aversion to being left out of conversations surrounding the genre, or defined by media outlets that paint people in Soweto “with a one-dimensional brush”, Karabo’s lens aims to document how these punk rock heroes are “reshaping what it means to be Black and from the township”.


Karabo Mooki: Dog Pound Days (Copyright © Karabo Mooki , 2016)

Capturing candid moments, with a lot of trust from the project’s participants, Karabo often finds himself documenting counterculture in his photographic dialogues. Building strong connections with the communities he captures, he takes time to understand collective narratives, the aims of the community “as well as spotlighting what they have overcome to realise their accomplishments”. Karabo says: “My passion for photography has always been rooted in my interest in human connectivity, history, and culture… Over time, I realised the weight of institutionalised colonialism that I was carrying and how systems of oppression had created doubt in my own self-worth. This is why it is so important for me to continue to highlight and celebrate Black culture in all its glory.”

For Karabo the photo series visualises the ongoing work of a community that “embodies a revolutionary spirit in a space that was designed to keep Black people oppressed”, creating a legacy of their own through their music. Counteracting “false narratives of South Africa as a rainbow nation”, the photographer uses his camera to spotlight “the truth of our stories as Black South Africans”, he says, celebrating “the rise of a community that has historically been oppressed and is now at the forefront of cultural revolution”.

GalleryKarabo Mooki: Dog Pound Days (Copyright © Karabo Mooki , 2016)

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Karabo Mooki: Dog Pound Days (Copyright © Karabo Mooki , 2016)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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