color image of an older Black woman with a young child

Ke Lefa Laka

3 Aug 2018 2018 CUBES

The photomontages became a substitute for the paucity of memory, a forged identification and imagined conversation.

Featuring: Lebohang Kganye

Presented by

United Photo Industries

Curated by

James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog

Eight years ago, I lost my mother and I needed to explore the possibility of keeping a connection with her. In my journey, I began looking for pieces of my mother in the house, I found many photos and clothes, which had always been there, but which I had ignored over the years. There she was, smiling and posing in these clothes.

The idea of ‘the ghost’ started to emerge in my work. Like a presence that isn’t, which Roland Barthes speaks about in his book “Camera Lucida,” where he explores “various photographs from his family album as he searches for a likeness that can begin to represent his feelings for and memory of his mother, who had recently died”.

My reconnection with my mother became a visual manipulation of ‘her-our’ histories. I began inserting myself into her pictorial narrative by emulating these snaps of her from my family album. I would dress in the exact clothes that she was wearing in these 30-year-old photographs and mimic the same poses. This was my way of marrying the two memories (mine and of my mother). I later developed digital photomontages where I juxtaposed old photographs of my mother retrieved from the family archives with photographs of a ‘present version of her’—me, to reconstruct a new story and a commonality. She is me, I am her, and there remains in this commonality so much difference and distance in space and time. I realized that I was scared that I was beginning to forget what my mother looked like, what she sounded like, and her defining gestures. The photomontages became a substitute for the paucity of memory, a forged identification and imagined conversation.


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 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 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.

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