South African visual artist Lebohang Kganye centers her practice on performative acts and themes such as memory and personal stories. Often incorporating archival documents, his way of telling is inspired by traditions transmitted orally. Behind almost all of his projects to date, there is a desire to explore his family origins or popular traditions, as evidenced by the projects on display at the ROSEGALLERY, Santa Monica, California, until April 9, 2022. The exhibition In progress What are you leaving behind? covers eight years of Kganye’s career, weaving together three landmark series: Ke Lefa Laka: his story (2013), Reconstitution of a family (2016), and Tell a story (2018). In this exhibition, viewers are encouraged to engage with the relationships between history and culture, as well as the memory and fantasy that Kganye skillfully portrays through his works.
From his series Ke Lefa Laka: his storyborn of the desire to mourn her mother, Reconstitution of a family, where Kganye takes a journey through the generations of his mother’s family, South African history is in the background, as the artist’s family was uprooted and resettled due to land law, his various amendments and other apartheid laws. Moreover, the most recent series Tell a story reflects on the dynamics of oral storytelling, confronting the tendency to create personal stories that emerge from a combination of memory and imagination.
Looking at his work, the evolution of Kganye’s approach is evident. She becomes more and more attentive to the treatment of photography as a performative object, both gestural and material, while at the same time, in her later works, she begins to detach herself from the theme of the family and rather tends to expand. towards broader horizons that focus on how to tell stories.
We caught up with Lebohang Kganye, who is also the new winner of the 2022 Foam Paul Huf Award, to dive into his practice. Read our conversation.
Where does the title come from What are you leaving behind? comes from?
The title is basically about me starting a new journey. This is my first solo show in the US, but it’s also about leaving behind grief and loss. What do you leave behind? speaks to the fact that much of my work centers around these themes. You can also see this by looking at one of the bodies of work, Ke Lefa Laka: his story, which I started two years after the death of my mother. It’s work that’s had a lot of public life, to a large extent, and so the show is really about leaving that story and the feeling of grief and loss behind.
Being my first time exhibiting at the ROSEGALLERY, this exhibition initiates a new conversation and relationship, but I wanted to start by providing some context about my practice; a starting point on the three bodies of work that are shown. Through the exhibition, you almost see a progression of my practice in terms of subjects and content, you see the similarities and how I came to leave behind this family narrative. So that’s basically what the title is all about. It’s also about taking this journey with me, while leaving something behind. It can literally be this idea of being part of a journey, like when you sit down to eat, you bring something but you also leave something behind. I think more and more that what connects the corpuses are these notions of oral history, performance, memory, staging and fantasy.