TELL TALE / IN SEARCH FOR MEMORY
under the patronage of the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Italy
The two bodies of work Tell Tale and In Search for Memory are indicative of the artist’s central preoccupation with the very construct of memory. This recent work expresses a deeper and more philosophical interest in the materiality of photography as a tool in the (re)construction of collective memory. Lebohang Kganye has developed a visual language that complicates a singular narrative while exploring larger themes around belonging, nostalgia, lineage, recollection and autofiction.
In pursuing the medium in conversation with other disciplines such as theatre and literature, Kganye’s works is currently concerned with layered and temporal storytelling. She employs photography as a malleable medium in her collaborative practice finding connections between the archival power of oral traditions and the uses of theatre to invite new imaginaries. Both bodies of work interrogate the human need to retain, recall certain narratives about ourselves and the communities from which we originate and in which we situate our identities to explore the potential contradictions and fictions therein. In relooking at certain historical narratives, what are the stories we tell ourselves – both subjectively and collectively.
In the series, Tell Tale, Kganye uses the works of renowned playwright and author, Athol Fugard, as the central source material, namely: The Road to Mecca (1984) and The Train Driver (2010). Fugard is best known for his contribution to South African protest theatre, writing and directing his plays with a multiracial cast, openly rejecting segregation laws in national theatres. This led to most of his works being banned by the Apartheid government. Tell Tale was creatively conceived during a residency in the small town of Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo, Eastern Cape. These are staged stories that the locals of the small desert town narrated to the artist during her residency – allowing her to access an embodied archive.
The series, In Search for Memory also makes use of literature as its central reference material. Kganye responds to a science fiction novella titled TA O’REVA by Malawian writer Muthi Nhlema. The writer presents an alternative history of a post-apocalyptic future South Africa (one that dispels the notion of a unified, reconciled post-apartheid outcome – commonly branded as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ narrative). Traversing the temporalities (pre-apartheid, post-apartheid and a dystopian future nation), Nhlema imagines the return of Nelson Mandela – a literal and highly mythologised hero in the story of South Africa – to a disappointing and bleak future.
In Search for Memory and Tell Tale reflect on photography and theatre’s relationship with time and (re)performance.