South African photographer Jonathan Wood documents the wild rides and remote lifestyles of the Kingdom of Lesotho


Young South African photographer Jonathan Wood travelled to the Kingdom of Lesotho to create this photo essay on the isolated shepherds of the Maluti Mountains. A young shepherd must toil for his master for two years to earn enough to pay a lobola (bride’s price) for a wife and start a family in his own homestead. But even then shepherds continue to survive on scant resources while tending to their herds. “In a place where no roads reach the villages and electricity is a distant reality, life takes on a very different flow,” says Wood. “The currency of barter and trade are strong, men and women live their entire lives in the same village and the path to manhood is a long and difficult one.”

Wood studied at Pretoria’s National College of Photography and assisted Pieter Hugo while honing his approach to storytelling driven by the desire to test both personal and social boundaries. Inspired by the independent spirit of the Basotho people, he also documented Lesotho’s famed horse races. Breeders, owners and riders travel great distances to compete at these important sporting and social events. Men bet, haggle and drink umqombothi (maize beer) while children are sent to chase grazing cattle out of the race route. “Through all the apparent chaos there is a definite sense or organisation,” Wood says of his experiences of Mokhotlong district race days. “Officials check each horse’s teeth to determine its age and which race it will take part in. A flag bearer mounts his horse and thunders off to the starting point below the hill and when the races are about to begin, the air is full of energy.”

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