In 2013, Johannesburg-based artist Lebohang Kganye embarked on a journey to piece together her family history. Old photo albums were the raw material for creating her extraordinary series ‘Ke Lefa Laka’.
A negotiation between family trajectories and personal identity, ‘Ke Lefa Laka’ plays the story of two women who meet in the realm of photography. For this series, Lebohang Kganye used existing images of her mother, found in her family’s archive, and juxtaposed them with images of herself dressed and posing in the same way. Her spectral figure, a new element inserted into old photographs, reflects a deep desire to connect her own history with the memory of her deceased mother.
At the heart of Lebohang’s work is the interplay between factual reality and imagination. Photographs, as we know, have the power to conjure up the past. They are records of what has happened in real life. Yet the family album, a collection of pictures of special significance, is also a platform for conveying illusory tales: “Family photographs are more than just a memory of moments or people who have passed on, or the reassurance of an existence’”, Lebohang explains. “They are also vehicles to a fantasy that allows for a momentary space to ‘perform’ ideals of ‘family-ness’ and become visual constructions of who we think we are and hope to be, while at the same time they represent an erasure of reality.”
Through digital manipulation, performance and impersonation, Lebohang creates a pictorial space where two generations coincide. The generation of her mother, a fashionable, determined woman living in the Apartheid era, and hers, a young artist born in a globalized world. By overlapping past and present, Lebohang subverts photography’s factual nature and Roland Barthes idea of “that-has-been”. The original photographs, once mementos of her mother’s absence, are now the evidence of an imagined presence, of a fictional encounter in present-day. They have become a personal homage to her roots and a celebration of life; of what we are and hope to be.
Born in 1990, Lebohang Kganye lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. She began her photography studies in 2009 at the Market Photo Workshop and completed the Advanced Photography Programme in 2011 and is currently studying Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg. Although primarily a photographer, Lebohang’s photography often incorporates her interest in sculpture and performance of the archive and memory. She has had several art exhibitions in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Cape Town, Harare, London, Amsterdam, Paris and New York.
All Rights Reserved. © Lebohang Kganye.
Courtesy of Afronova Gallery