Eight years ago, Lebohang Kganye lost her mother. Determined to maintain an emotional and physical connection, Kganye began searching for pieces of her mother in the home they had shared. She found photos and clothes, which had always been there, but that she’d overlooked while her mother was alive. “There she was,” recalls Kganyge of the encounter, “smiling and posing in these clothes.”
The idea of “the ghost” started to emerge in Kganye’s work. “My reconnection with my mother became a visual manipulation of ‘her-our’ histories,” says Kganye. “I began inserting myself into her pictorial narrative by emulating these snaps of her from my family album.”
To marry her memories to her mother’s, Kganye dressed in nearly the exact clothes her mother wore in the 30-year-old photographs inside their family album. She also mimicked the same poses and then photographed herself. Through digitally merging the archival photos with the contemporary photos, Kganye aims to construct a new relationship with her mother. “She is me, I am her, and there remains in this commonality so much difference and distance in space and time,” says Kganye. Scared she was beginning to forget what her mother looked like, how she sounded, and her defining gestures, “the photomontages became a substitute for the paucity of memory, a forged identification and imagined conversation,” says Kganye.
“Ka Lefa Laka,” the photo series Kganye created in the wake of her loss is on view at Photoville through September 23.
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Lebohang Kganye is part of a new generation of contemporary South African photographers. She graduated from the Market Photo Workshop in 2011 and from the University of Johannesburg in 2016.
Kganye is a recipient of a Tierney Fellowship Award, the Jury Prize at the Bamako Encounters Biennale of African Photography, and the CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography. She recently received the coveted award for the Sasol New Signatures Competition. Her work is included in several private and public collections, most notably the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Walther Collection in Ulm.