Lebohang Kganye takes Sasol New Signatures 2017 title

Lebohang Kganye (27), a photographer and filmmaker from Katlehong, Johannesburg, has won the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, themed “Be Discovered”, for her animated film, Ke Sale Teng (Sesotho for “I’m still here”).

The film “confronts how family photo albums no longer have a fixed narrative, but instead open us to reinterpret our past and even interrogates our need to preserve a certain narrative,” a statement said.

In a diorama, cut-out silhouettes of family members are used alongside other props to question “the conflicting stories, which are told in multiple ways, even by the same person – memory combined with fantasy,” it continued.

“Sometimes we rely on the family photo album as a way to understand what family is meant to be,” said Kganye. “What we often land up with is a grouping of images that have been constructed, and perhaps do not account at all for the histories and memories that are connected to that album.”

Coming from a performance arts foundation in high school, which was followed by her perusing photography (her main medium of choice) at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and then going on to study Fine Art at the University of Johannesburg, where she majored in sculpture, Kganye shares: “The work ultimately encoprpates all the different interests I have, so all of those elements are present in the animation.”

As the winner of Sasol New Signatures, Kganye walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to have a solo exhibition in 2018 at the Pretoria Art Museum.

On what winning the title means for her career, she says: “I think it’s quite a great competition to be part of – not even winning – but being part of the finalists, because, for one, there’s a catalogue that’s involved, so your work goes on record. Even if people miss the show, they have access to your work and will know your name and can then follow your career from that point on.”

Kganye initially first submitted work for the competition in 2011. She shares that with the years that have passed since then, she’s managed to produce a very different style of work. “There’s a lot of growth in the work and you can see that I’ve grown in the past seven years, so I think that it is great in that sense, because it’s about promoting emerging artists, and I feel like it was the right time for me to be the winner because I have grown so much.”

Travel has also been an influencer in Kganye’s work. She’s travelled extensively to places such as Amsterdam, Vienna and to art festivals around the world not only focused on photography, but with a broader view of the arts. “Travelling has definitely been great, to have access to different museums, seeing things and being more aware of what you’re seeing. So I think that access to artwork I’ve studied, being able to see and experience it – that’s been great.”

From a personal perspective, she adds: “It just broadens your views on things. You become less narrow-minded, and you believe that you can basically do anything.”

Sthenjwa Luthuli from KwaZulu-Natal came in second place for his woodcut work that “reflects the cultural politics within traditional Zulu rituals and customs in a contemporary family setting”. It is titled Umbango, which means “conflict” in isiZulu.

This year, most of the works submitted stimulated multiple senses, with these, “holding the viewer captive for longer periods of time, thus driving home the pressing social, political, and environmental issues South Africa grapples with,” said Dr Pieter Binsbergen, renowned artist, judge and Sasol New Signature Chairperson.

“The works ­of the 2017 Sasol New Signatures winners and finalists has lived up to the history and intention of the competition, and showcases what South African artists are capable of,” said Charlotte Mokoena, Sasol Executive President for Corporate Affairs and Human Resources. “Noteworthy this year has also been the diversity of the submissions received. This demonstrates that Sasol New Signatures is making progress in reaching emerging artists from all walks of life.”

More of Kganye’s work can be seen at the Afronova Gallery. She’ll also be working toward opening her solo show next year, alongside private commissions and a residency in Switzerland.

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