Ke Lefa Laka – a solo exhibition by
Tierney Fellow Lebohang Kganye

Ke Lefa Laka opens 7 August 2013 at 18h00
The Market Photo Workshop Gallery
8 August – 29 September 2013

The Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop in partnership with the Tierney Family Foundation was awarded to alumni Lebohang Kganye for 2012/2013. The goal of this project is to award an aspiring photographer the opportunity to develop their career and skills through this unique mentorship programme. The Tierney Fellowship creates an ideal space for a photographer to develop such a body of work. Ke lefa laka is Kganye’s first solo exhibition and features work from a year’s research into her family history using family photographs, testimonies from family members as well as personal narratives. She has been mentored by Nontobeko Ntombela and Mary Sibande.

The exhibition features two series’ Heir-story and Her-story, as well as re-worked photo album. Also included in the exhibition are recordings of oral histories by members of Kganye’s family. All three parts of the exhibition explore concepts of memory, narrative, inhertitence, story telling and photographies roles in all three.

Photographer’s statement

They are kept stashed in wardrobes and chests while a few framed ones decorate room dividers. Some are arranged in albums as if to tell life stories and testimonies to identities.  Family photographs are more than documentation of personal narratives; they become prized possessions, hearkening back to a certain event, a certain person, and a particular time. But they are also vehicles, to a fantasy that allows for a momentary space to ‘perform’ ideals of ‘family-ness’, and become a visual constructions of who we think we are and hope to be, yet at the same time an erasure of reality.

I initially began navigating my history through geographic mapping, attempting to trace where my family originated and how we (me and my family) ended up in these different spaces that we all now call home. I visited the different locations where my family lived in South Africa and found many old family photo albums. These personal archives that I found during these visits varied, some well composed and others typical family snap-shots as souvenirs of the daily life. Photographs are more than just a memory of moments passed or people no-more or a re-assurance of an existence, but they were a constructed life. My project diverted into different threads of investigation which explored the personal and collective histories of my family and those were the story of my mother, my grandfather and clan names, and my own story.

The idea of ‘the ghost’ started to emerge in my work, as it traces my ancestral roots through stories that were narrated to me by my grandmother regarding spaces which were inhabited by my matrilineal family members. These stories also reflect my family moving from place to place during the apartheid era and finding refuge in different spaces around South Africa, creating temporary homes in those spaces. This had a direct impact on the identity of my family as a whole, which resulted in our family surname changing from Khanye to Khanyi to Kganye, either as an attempt to identify with the different social and physical spaces where my family made homes or because of negligence in recording by law officials.  As people didn’t often officially record their own names (or dates of birth), much of our history has been recorded incorrectly or simply remains unwritten. This led me to exploring my family’s izithakazelo/Direto (clan names or praise songs) – every Black surname has their own praise songs which gives a stage to show family genealogy.

This photographic journey seems to be a deep response to loss and mourning – not just of different individuals, but of history, language, oral culture. Her-story-Heir-story is about memory, fantasy and identity formation and performance, a means for re-constructing my identity by reconnecting with family members both alive and dead and a larger family history. Through this process of attempting to trace my history, I have discovered that identity cannot be traced, just like the camera; it is a site for the performance of dreams and to stage the narratives of contradictions, half-truths; erasure, denial, hidden truths. A family identity therefore becomes an orchestrated fiction and a collective invention. While these images record history, it is only a history imagined.  I will choose which part of the fantasy to take with me and claim as my story.

About The Tierney Fellowship
The Tierney Fellowship was created in 2003 by The Tierney Family Foundation to support emerging artists in the field of photography. The primary goal of the Fellowship is to find aspiring artists who will be tomorrow’s leaders and to assist them in overcoming challenges that photographers face at the start of their careers. For more information about the Tierney Fellowship click here.