Semonkong is a remote area of Lesotho in South Africa, a mountain town that is a challenge to get to. The name means “Site Of Smoke” in reference to the Maletsunyane Falls that mist the area. It sounds beautiful.
Semonkong is also known for its relationship with horses as a result of uneven mountain terrain. You can get there by car or bus, yes, but it’s much more effective to get there by horse considering the lack of resources in the town. Horses offer a simple, effective means of locomotion not to mention a sporty release.
The area and culture of horses have a beauty about them that documentary photographer Thom Pierce was able to capture in his remarkable The Horsemen Of Semonkong series. The South African artist spent eight days in the area capturing men, women, and children who hoard livestock and travel by horse everyday. The resulting images are a capturing of the day-to-day that finds itself in the past and present.
This feeling of now-and-then pronounces itself in the clothing of the Semonkong horsemen. A combination of Winter clothing and quilts, the portraits are a window into life at the “site of smoke.” There’s a lot of draping and wrapping, effective utilitarian cloaking from the elements. There’s a playful tension between factory fabricated animal blankets with natural patterns created in landscape. A strange camouflage happens in tonal parallel. Pattern play is ubiquitous as are utilitarian accessories, i.e. walking sticks and crops and tools to survive in Semonkong.
The Horsemen Of Semonkong is a beautiful set that offer a day-in-the-life observation of a small town the majority of the world will never get to experience. It’s a wander around a place where land stops, dropping off to nothing, where horses and dogs are shaggy dappled workers and the people occupy multiple time periods.
You can explore the series in its entirety here. If you’re in South Africa, you can catch a showing of the photos at Circa Gallery in Johannesburg from October 13 through November 12.