Reconstruction of a family

Lebohang Kganye

2016 - Ongoing

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa

The project documents my personal history and straddles generations of my mother’s family. It also resonates the history of South Africa, in that my family was uprooted and resettled because of the Land Act (and its various amendments) and other apartheid laws. These stories reflect my family moving from place to place during the apartheid era and finding refuge in different spaces around the country, and then creating temporary homes in those spaces.

My grandfather represents the central patriarchal figure in the project. He passed away before I was born, and he was the first person in the Khanye family to move from di’plaasing’, referring to ‘homelands’, in the Orange Free State to the city in Transvaal to find work. He didn’t want to be a farm labourer like the rest of the family.

As apartheid was ending and most of the family moved from the homelands to seek work in the Transvaal, they temporarily lived in his house in Johannesburg. As a result, everyone in the family has stories about my grandfather, and even though I was born in ‘his’ house I never got to know him except through stories passed down from family.

I enact these stories of my grandfather to construct a visual narrative, in which we meet through the use of life-size flat-mannequins of the characters related to me in various family stories (and albums). In these fictive narratives I am the only ‘real’ person, taking on the persona of my grandfather, dressed in a suit, a typical garment that he often appeared in in family photographs.

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  • You couldn’t stop the train in time, 2018

  • O emetse mohala, 2016

  • Farmer selling Sneeuberg potatoes, 2018

  • Re palame tereneng e fosahetseng, 2016

  • O robetse a ntse a bala Bona, 2016

  • Never light a candle carelessly, 2018

  • Ke ile ka tswela pele ka ho tereka a ntse a bua, 2016

  • Pied Piper, 2013

  • The Alarm, 2013

  • The Bicycle, 2013

  • The Wheelbarrow, 2013

  • Last Supper, 2013

  • The Suit, 2013