Lebohang Kganye


You couldn’t stop the rain in time, inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver)


The nameless ones in the graves
, inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver)


Helen’s father grazing his goats
, inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Maverick by Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie)


Farmer selling Sneeuberg potatoes
, inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Athol Fugard’s Road to Mecca)


Johannes Hattingh struck by the bolts from above
, inkjet print on rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Maverick by Lauren Beukes and Nechama Brodie)


Never light a candle carelessly
, inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 2018

(Inspired by Athol Fugard’s Road to Mecca)

For information and context about each of the images’ references, go to the Context section of Lebohang Kganye’s Website.

Artist Statement

With the scorching sun piercing my skin, I spent weeks walking along the gravel roads of the small South African town of Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, which its residents call a village—a term foreign to my vocabulary. Through Shawn Graaff, a young American woman who lives between Cape Town and Nieu Bethesda and who works on the restoration and conservation of the Owl House and cement sculptures created by Helen Martins and Koos Malgas, I was introduced to many of the Nieu Bethesda villagers, including a beekeeper who uses beeswax to make cosmetic products in her backyard and a violin string maker who makes his strings from horse tails. Together with others we drove to a livestock auction, where farmers bid for sheep, and met in her tea garden a “tannie” [a title of  respect used to refer to an elderly woman], 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 a diorama, I staged the stories the villagers narrated to me, drawing inspiration from Fugard’s play Road to Mecca and a chapter from Lauren Beukes‘s Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past, a book that includes information about Helen Martins. My series, which I call Tell Tale [see images above], confronts the villagers’ conflicting stories, which are told in multiple ways, even by the same person, through a combination of memory and fantasy. I don’t claim that my work is the documentation of a people but it does present personal narratives, which the villagers shared over a cup of tea, homemade ginger ale, or locally brewed beer. While their stories — prized possessions — hearken back to a particular time, they also are vehicles for a fantasy that momentarily allows space to “perform” ideals of community. Fictive narratives, as genealogist Kimberly Powell states, depend on oral histories. “Oral histories are stories told by living people about the past. Generally, these are stories of their own lives and of 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.”

My work also references and is inspired by another of Fugard’s plays, The Train Driver, which contains the following dedication: “For Pumla Lolwana and her three children — Lindani, Andile, and Sesanda — who died on the railway tracks between Philippi and Nyanga on The Cape Flats on Friday, December 8th, 2000.”

About the Artist

Born in 1990, Lebohang Kganye, who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa, was introduced to photography in 2009 at the city’s Market Photo Workshop. She completed the Advanced Photography Programme in 2011 and her fine arts studies at the University of Johannesburg in 2016, thereafter becoming part of a new generation of contemporary South African photographers.

Although primarily a photographer, Lebohang Kganye often incorporates in her work elements of her interests in sculpture and performance.

Over the past seven years, Lebohang Kganye has participated in photography masterclasses and numerous group exhibitions, locally and internationally. The latter include showings of her work in 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa; Tokyo, Japan; Arles, France; Paris, France; Basel, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; Berlin, Germany; London, England; and New York City. In 2018, she appeared in group exhibitions in London; Cape Town, South Africa; and Amersfoort, The Netherlands, among other places. In 2019, Lebohang Kganye is showing in the group exhibition “Africa State of Mind” at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, United Kingdom.

Lebohang Kganye was the recipient of the Market Photo Workshop’s 2012 Tierney Fellowship Award, which led to the 2013 solo exhibition of her series Ke Lefa Laka (“Her-story/Heir-story”) in Johannesburg. She created from that series an animation, Pied Piper’s Voyage, which launched on Mandela Day 2014 in Scotland. (A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available.) In addition, Lebohang Kganye was awarded the Jury Prize, Coup de Couer, at the Bamako Encounters Biennale of African Photography in 2015; the CAP Prize at the Image Afrique Festival, in Basel, Switzerland, in 2017; and the coveted Overall Winner award at the Sasol New Signatures Competition in Pretoria in 2017. The latter resulted in another solo show in 2018. Lebohang Kganye also was singled out by Aperture magazine’s Michael Famighetti as a Jurors’ Pick, one of just seven photographers awarded special distinction and a cash grant in the 2018 Art Photography Awards. Famighetti pronounced her “a distinguished new voice in contemporary photography.”

The subject of significant press attention, Lebohang Kganye’s work forms part of several public and private collections, most notably those of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Walther Collection in New York, New York.

Lebohang Kganye Website

Lebohang Kganye on Face Book

Impressions Gallery

Lens Culture 2018 Art Photography Awards

Market Photo Workshop

Carnegie Museum of Art

Walther Collection