Reconstruction of a Family
With the scotching sun piercing the skin, I spent weeks walking along the gravel roads of the small town Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo, Eastern Cape which the residents call a village, a term foreign in my vocabulary. Shawn Graaff – an American young woman who lives between Cape Town and Nieu Bethesda and works on the restoration and conservation of the Owl House and the cement sculptures created by Helen Martins and Koos Malgas. She introduced us to many of the villagers, including a beekeeper who makes cosmetic products in her backyard from beeswax, a violin string maker using horse tails to make the strings, we drove to a livestock auction where the farmers bid for sheep and met a ‘tannie’ in her tea garden who translates Athol Fugard’s plays from English to Afrikaans. Through the construction of miniature theatre sets with silhouette cut-outs of the characters in the diorama, I stage the stories the villagers narrated to me in relation to Athol Fugard’s play Road to Mecca and a chapter from Lauren Beukes’ book Maverick about Helen Martins. Reconstruction of a Family confronts the conflicting stories, which are told in multiple ways, even by the same person — a combination of memory and fantasy. The work does not attest to being documentation of a people but presents their personal narratives, which they share over a cup of tea, homemade ginger ale or the locally brewed beer. These prized possessions hearken back to a particular time but are also vehicles to a fantasy that allows for a momentary space to ‘perform’ ideals of community. Fictive narratives depend on oral histories, genealogist, Kimberley Powell states, “Oral histories are stories told by living people about the past. Generally, these are stories of their own life and the lives of the people around them. Often an oral history includes details and stories that exist nowhere other than in the individual’s mind.” The work is mainly inspired by Athol Fugard’s plays Train Driver.
About the photographer：
Lebohang Kganye is an artist living and working in Johannesburg. Kganye received her introduction to photography at the Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg in 2009 and completed the Advanced Photography Programme in 2011. She studied Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg and is currently doing her Masters in Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand University. Kganye forms a new generation of contemporary South African photographers, although primarily a photographer, Kganye’s photography often incorporates her interest in sculpture and performance. Over the past seven years, she has participated in photography masterclasses and group exhibitions locally and internationally. Kganye was the recipient of the Tierney Fellowship Award in 2012, leading to her solo exhibition Ke Lefa Laka. She created an animation from the series, which was launched on Mandela Day 2014 in Scotland, entitled Pied Piper’s Voyage. She was also awarded the Jury Prize at the Bamako Encounters Biennale of African Photography in 2015 and was the recipient of the CAP Prize 2016 in Basel. Kganye recently received the coveted award for the Sasol New Signatures Competition 2017, leading to a solo show in 2018. Kganye’s work forms part of several private and public collections, most notably the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Walther Collection in Ulm.