Lebohang Kganye: Tell Tale
Photo Workshop Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa18 May 2018
The Market Photo Workshop, in partnership with the Market Theatre, presents Tell Tale, an exhibition of newly commissioned photography work by Lebohang Kganye.
Tell Tale is inspired by Athol Fugard’s plays ‘The Train Driver’ and ‘Road to Mecca’ as well as ‘Maverick’ by Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie, about Helen Martins from Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo. In February 2018 Kganye undertook research in Nieu Bethesda to unpack the mystery of the Owl House’s enduring mythology and the meaning of the Owl House and the Karoo for Athol Fugard. The project explores the powerful bonds that grow between strangers and the collective truths, fictions and mythologies circulated about living and moving through the Karoo. Kganye was accompanied and mentored by Cedric Nunn during her time in Nieu Bethesda.
This project was commissioned in collaboration with the Market Theatre’s Athol@86 Season. South African playwright Athol Fugard is one of the world’s most celebrated and prolific playwrights. As Athol turns 86 this year, the Market Theatre’s artistic director James Ngcobo has created a programme that celebrates this renowned playwright in the Athol@86 season.
“With the scorching sun piercing my skin, I spent weeks walking along the gravel roads of Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo. The residents call Nieu Bethesda a “village”, a term that is foreign in my vocabulary. Through the construction of miniature theatre sets I stage the stories that the villagers narrated to me in relation to Athol Fugard’s play Road to Mecca and The Train Driver, and a chapter from Nechama Brodie and Lauren Beukes’ book Maverick about Helen Martins. Shawn Graaff, an American 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, introduced me to many of the villagers. I met a beekeeper that makes cosmetic products in her backyard from beeswax, and a violin string maker using hairs from horsetails to make the strings. We drove to a livestock auction where the farmers bid for sheep, and I met a ‘tannie’ in her tea garden who translates Athol Fugard’s plays from English to Afrikaans.
Tell Tale confronts the conflicting stories which are told in multiple ways, sometimes by the same person, as a combination of memory and fantasy. The work does not attest to being a documentation of a people, instead presenting their personal narratives and histories, which they share over a cup of tea, homemade ginger ale or the locally brewed beer. These prized stories 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.”
Opening: Wednesday 16 May 2018, 18h00 at The Photo Workshop Gallery
Lebohang Kganye (b. 1990, Katlehong) is an artist living and working in Johannesburg. Kganye received her introduction to photography at the Market Photo Workshop in 2009 and completed the Advanced Photography Programme in 2011. She also completed her Fine Arts studies at the University of Johannesburg in 2016 and 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 six 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 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. Kganye was then selected as the Featured Artist for the 17th Business and Arts South Africa Awards in 2014. She was also awarded the Jury Prize at the Bamako Encounters Biennale of African Photography in 2015 and 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 a year. She is the winner of the 2018 Rise Art Global Artist of the Year award and is currently on the Pro-helvetia artist in residency programme in Switzerland. 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.