Looking for a way to live in her late mother’s memories, Johannesburg-based artist Lebohang Kganye produced the work Ke Lefa Laka which was awarded the Contemporary African Photography (CAP) Prize. Ke Lefa Laka translates to ‘my inheritance’, and this was the starting point for her work. By embodying her mother through images she is able to combine the past, the present and memories of her mother without any chronological order being made to dominate the work. Kganye put on her mother’s clothes and inserted herself into photographs of her mother before she passed away, allowing herself to occupy two moments at once. Here she quite literally inserts her body into images to live in her mother’s memories.
Primarily a photographer, her work also incorporates sculpture and performance and focuses on the thematics of memory, the archive, narrative, storytelling and how photography relates to these.
Recognizing that family photographs are a documentation of personal and collective narratives, and how they are displayed projects a particular way in which those narratives unfold, Kganye also addresses how their construction can be performative and used to channel ideals around “family-ness”.
While Ke Lefa Laka was produced in 2013, it highlights one of the key aspects her practice, which is to make connections between macro level political and social issues and personal/familial narratives. By visiting places that her family had lived and by finding family photographs she was able to explore the stories told to her by her grandmother, and uncover the story of her grandfather, mother, clan names, and her own story. These stories involved the multiple times her family had to move due to apartheid laws and social conditions, and how her family surname changed with these moves. This work culminated in a reflection on larger political and social conditions by highlighting how the personal is political. This premise is carried through her artistic practice.