Gallery News for Thabiso Sekgala
Tributes to Thabiso Sekgala in Bamako and Lagos
Both the 10th Rencontres de Bamako Biennale panafricaine de Photographie and LagosPhoto festival 2015 have held to tributes to young photographer Thabiso Sekgala, who passed away in Johannesburg in 2014. “In his photographic pursuit of different places,” write the organisers of the Bamako Biennale “Thabiso Sekgala may have thought, to quote the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron’s song Running : ‘It’s easier to run / easier than staying and finding out you’re the only one…who didn’t run.’ From Bulawayo to Berlin, Sekgala’s photography offers glimpses of movement over time, just as it forms a legacy that will endure forever.” Lagos Photo ended on 27 November and the Bamako Biennale runs until 31 December 2015.
Thabiso Sekgala in UK - Indian collab
British photographer Kalpesh Lathigra and South African Thabiso Sekgala have embarked on an unusual collaboration to develop work at the same time in two cities. Together, they have chosen to explore communities and representation, exploring “understandings of belonging, histories, silence, memory and loss.” The two chose to begin their project in connection with Indian communities in two primary locations; Marabastad and Laudium in South Africa, and in Brighton, UK. The project is part of SA-UK Seasons 2014 & 2015, which is a partnership between the Department of Arts & Culture, South Africa and the British Council.
Because I always feel like running, not away, because there is no such place
Because, if there was I would have found it by now
Because it’s easier to run, easier than staying and finding out
you’re the only one who didn’t run.
Because running will be the way your life and mine will be described,
As “in the long run” or as in having given someone a “run for his money”
Or as in “running out of time”
Because running makes me look like everyone else;
though I hope there will never be cause for that
Because I will be running in the other direction, not running for cover
Because if I knew where cover was, I would stay there and never have to run for it
Not running for my life, because I have to be running for something
of more value to be running and not in fear.
Because the thing I fear cannot be escaped, eluded, avoided, hidden from,
protected from, gotten away from,
Not without showing the fear as I see it now
Because closer, clearer, no sir, nearer
Because of you and because of that nice that you quietly, quickly be causing
And because you´re going to see me run soon and because you´re going to know
why I´m running then,
You will know then, because I´m not going to tell you now.
– Running, Gil Scott-Heron
In his first solo show with the Goodman Gallery, Thabiso Sekgala presents Running, a photographic exhibition bringing together three series: Running Amman, Running Bulawayo and Paradise. Although shot in highly disparate places – the cities of Amman, Bulawayo and Berlin – all three series are viewed by Sekgala as part of a similar trajectory of movement, displacement, transition; each photograph displaying a veneer of calm, that may or may not be on the verge of catastrophe. Considering both the notion of running towards and away from, Sekgala confronts perceptions surrounding place, influenced by sentiments such as aspiration and assumption, and ultimately destabilises these. Produced while Sekgala was on various international residencies, this is the first time these works are being exhibited in South Africa.
Running Amman was photographed in a city built around an old Palestinian refugee camp, which for Sekgala, “defines the idea of running… I was interested in the calmness, and the stillness of the place. I photographed these images during the period when America was still threatening to attack Syria, in my mind I was thinking if that could happen while I was in Jordan ‘will I have a place to run to’… In my work I am fascinated by conditions that define people’s home, that could be personal or political or economic.” Within the series Sekgala focusses on parked cars, influenced by Walid Raad’s series on car bombings during the Lebanese Civil war. These, as well as images of quiet streets, void landscapes and lone pedestrians may suggest the calm before a storm, or nothing at all.
Running Bulawayo, a bit closer to home, takes into account a shared history between Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the strange relationship the two countries currently share. Bulawayo was founded by the people led by Zulu Chief Mzilikazi, who left Zululand in the early 19th Century and settled in what came to be known as Matebeleland. Two centuries later, there is an inversion of migration, with millions of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa. “The town has become what I would call a ghost town,” explains Sekgala, “because most Zimbabweans live between Bulawayo and Johannesburg. There are over 4 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa.” In a series of images that depict dusty streets, seemingly abandoned mannequins, solemn backyards and dreary shopping centre interiors, Sekgala intimates a forgotten place.
In Paradise, Sekgala confronts the notion of the the West as a place that many want to run to – a perceived paradise. “Here,” Simon Njami writes in his essay ‘Heaven can Wait’, “the light is gray and pale. It gives the feeling of a dying world facing its twilight. And even though there is one scene, in a park, in which we see two children running and smiling, one wearing a T-shirt where the word ‘love’ is apparent, and in the background, most of the images convey a certain feeling of sadness and despair. An homage to a lost young girl; small displays of oranges and plastic watering cans; public transportation showing the solitude and harshness of our modern times; old and lonely people… empty bars, terraces… everything seems to be photographed in order to reveal a contemporary misery. We are, as some billboards and inscriptions reveal, in Germany, the richest European country. And paradise is always associated with wealth, abundance, and eternal joy. What is depicted in these images through the South African photographer’s gaze, however, is a portrait that fully contradicts these common preconceptions.”
Njami goes on to explain that “being an African certainly plays a critical role in Sekgala’s perception, which he charges with irony. Photography being a way of writing stories, and a language in itself, we are aware of the fact that there is a hidden message behind any image. Sekgala’s take on the debate about developed and underdeveloped countries becomes clear when we realise that he is playing on the reversed gaze repertoire. He openly admits that, coming from Africa, there is nothing that he can expect from Europe but magnificence, beauty, and harmony. One would expect a poor African discovering Western magnificence to be overwhelmed by all those things that he is supposed to be missing back home. But here we are, confronted with a reality that has nothing to do with our expectations.” In this interpretation of Sekgala’s modus operandi, Njami encapsulates the photographer’s ability to morph perception, making us question what we run away from, and what we run towards.
RESHMA CHHIBA / GABRIELLE GOLIATH / MURRAY KRUGER / GERALD MACHONA / KYLE MORLAND / MONIQUE PELSER / THABISO SEKGALA
Goodman Gallery Cape presents [Working Title] – a group exhibition of young artists working in South Africa, brought together in a way that allows multiple and perhaps surprising dialogues to emerge, and foregrounding questions of authorship, authority and notions of the relational.
Reshma Chhiba’s Kundalini Shakti and Linga-yoni – a slashed canvas and an unsettlingly organic sculpture, both informed by the artist’s ongoing interest in the Hindu goddess Kali as an embodiment of unbridled feminine creativity – act as a complement and counterpoint to the cool, Apollonian rationalism of Kyle Morland’s Double-Ended Saddle Cut, a suspended sculpture of welded steel. Both are also concerned, in different ways, with the act and effects of making. Murray Kruger, too, plays with concepts of creativity and authorship in his recreation of, and extrapolation from, Walter Battiss’ 1973 performance piece Open tent for contemplating the cosmic origins of art, while at the same time raising questions about the nature of the artwork, its evolution over time, and the ways in which its audiences are implicated in its inscription into history.
Gerald Machona’s origami-based installation Bling Bling: Blood diamonds are a girl’s best friend, a cynical comment on the abuses of power in postcolonial African politics, resonates with Monique Pelser’s Conversations with my Father, a searingly intimate attempt, in an installation and set of photographs, to understand her father’s death and life in the larger context of the dark and complex history of the South African police. A solemn photographic installation by Gabrielle Goliath titled Berenice 10-28 speaks poignantly of personal issues of loss and grief, while uncompromisingly confronting questions of violence and abuse in South African society.
Thabiso Sekgala’s photographs of the workers and inhabitants of a housing estate in Ghent are a refreshing and original take on the questions of identity that inform so much contemporary South African practice, and a provocative inversion of the usual dynamics of ‘othering’, while his stark images of domestic objects, at once intimate and abject, are a compelling reflection on contemporary urban life.
[Working Title] is a showcase of young artists whose work, while ranging in media and crossing disciplines, shares an uncommon and original approach to contemporary practice.
Text by Katrin Lewinsky
The art exhibition Basic Reality is not a curated exhibition. As the artistic
positions existed prior to the invitation, it is the artists’ present context that
relates to this exhibition. The exhibiting group of South African artists provide
examples of contemporary art mainly produced in South Africa between
2010-2011. The exhibition exists alongside current creative processes and
contributes to their development within a public interface. It is at the same
time to be seen as a medium in itself, created and completed by the artists.
This exhibition is unique and can’t be repeated. Goodman Gallery takes the
position of a commercial production partner offering the artists advice and
In this sense Basic Reality is a conceptual exhibition. It is formulating a liberal
progress of reference for contemporary art. It contains a neutral perspective
towards the possibilities of exchange between the media art and public in
order to relate to and establish processes of reality.
In the following conceptual text a theory on reality is introduced as part of a
greater philosophical discourse and as a consideration for statements on
contemporary art, like this exhibition. For the interest of relating to the artists
and the exhibited artwork outside of the theoretical concept on reality, selfreferential
artistic statements form a main component of this exhibition.
Theoretical text as a philosophical background and basis of discussion
The world can be seen as completely catalogued and analysed and then,
almost as compensation, artificially regenerated as if this were the reality. And
it is by these artificial strategies that we, all being specimen of ethnology,
here, in a metropolis, in all forms of society, try to live with representations of
reality. This common state assumes that none of our societies know how to
manage their social self, their power, their reality.
In this sense, the real that we experience is not reality. A basis for the
development of various structures: a growth of the true, of the lived
understanding for anthropological structures such as religion, technology,
language etc. There is a utopian culture that is conditional to human
awareness of, for example, a return of the metaphorical without object and
substance; of creations of idealistic models such as melancholy, of myths of
origin and signs of reality; of truth, objectivity and established authenticity.
Furthermore, a frantic production of the real and the referential exists, greater
than and similar to the madness of material production. We create visible
continua, visible myths of origin as existential evidence for the ultimate belief.
We correlate to productions of systems, commodities, of political economy
and of over-production. This is the restitution of the real that society has
developed to remove itself from. This is a hyperreality.
This hyperreality implicates an anti-form to every principle and objective.
And thus also to an interesting current principle in our society: the code of
capital. Capital is a challenge to society. It was capital that was the first to
feed, throughout history, on the destruction of every referential, of every
human goal, which crushed every ideal separation of the good and the truth
and their counterparts in order to establish a radical law of equivalence and
exchange, its law of power. It was the first to practice abstraction, severance,
deterritorialisation, etc. If capital has generated reality, its reality principle
exterminates the use of value, of real equivalence, of production and wealth.
In this system another evaluating strategy is simultaneously manifested:
power. This capacity shall be mentioned here as for a certain period it has the
disposition to assemble only signs of an affinity and the figure of a collective
demand for its signs. Those signs are equivalent to a setting, which is not a
principle, and more substantially not an ideology, as ideology does not relate
to reality or power, only to its infidelity.
Reality is evident in modes of power, as it is real in anything that is situational.
While ideology aims to restore the objective process, especially those of
common standards, this causes pretentious problems with restoring the truth
beneath a setting. This dynamic leads to the reason why power is so in
agreement with ideological discourses, for these are all discourses of truth
that always establish a good and avant-garde quality.
Art, and contemporary art in this context, of the matter of reality and its
structures of acceptance, manipulation and anticipation in our society, has
the power to create realities. In the existing scenarios art is closer to reality
than any other form of artificial production. Art inherently expresses critical
conditions, abstraction and redemption of the status quo. As a creative selfreferential
system it is not dependant on any form of power, reality, hyper
structure and capital, on any existential and ethnological conditions. Art has
thus by its immanent reduced artificial conditions, have the ability to settle the
basic conditions of the society to participate and create reality. Every art
exhibition is an opportunity to experience the visualised expressions of this
Thabiso Sekgala was born in 1981 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He died in the same city in October 2014. He studied at Johannesburg’s Market Photo Workshop in 2007 to 2008 and was awarded the Tierney Fellowship in 2010. Sekgala held solo exhibitions in Johannesburg, Berlin and Brussels and has shown in-group shows internationally. In 2013 he had residencies in both the Kunsterhaus Bethanien, Berlin, and at HIWAR/Durant Al Funun, Jordan.
His work explores themes of abandonment, memory, spatial politics and concept of home. “In photography I am inspired by looking at human experience whether lived or imagined," Sekgala once expressed. "Images capture our history and who we are, our presence and absence. Growing up in both rural and urban South Africa influences my work. The dualities of these both environments inform the stories I am telling through my photographs, by engaging issues around land, peoples’ movement, identity and the notion of home.”
2014 Running, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2011 Homeland, Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2011 Homeland, Recyclart & The vieuwer, Brussel, Belgium.
2014 Rise and Fall of Apartheid, Museum Africa, Johannesburg
2013 The rise and fall of Apartheid, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany.
2013 Transition, Les Rencontres D’Arles 2013, Arles, France.
2-13 Homestories, KFW, Frankfort, Germany.
2013 My Joburg, La maison rouge, Paris, France.
2013 Photoquai, Musee Du Quai Branly, Paris, France.
2013 The space between us, IFA Gallery, Berlin, Germany.
2013 Conversation in Amman, Durant Al Funun, Amman, Jordan.
2012 Working Title, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2012 The rise and fall of Apartheid, ICP, New York, USA.
2012 Shoe shop, Goethe Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2012 Transition, Bus Factory (France Institute), Johannesburg, South Africa.
2012 Expo sure Now, Speke Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2011 NYPH’11, Photo Festival NewYork,USA.
2011 Basic Reality, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2011 Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2010 10 (Borders Masterclass), Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2010 Considering documentary, Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2010 Re-found, Re-groupshow, Drongen, Belgium.
2009 Borders, Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
2009 Cetavoir Image Singuliere a photographic festival in Sete, France.
2011 Honerable mention Ernest Cole Award.
2011 Nominated Paul Huff Award.
2010 Awarded Tierney Fellowship.
2013 Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany.
2013 HIWAR/ Durant Al Funun, Amman, Jordan.
2012 History Matters Residency, CCA Lagos, Nigeria.
2012 Photographic portfolio meeting, by Goethe Institute, Lumombashi, DRC.
2011 Photographic portfolio meeting, by Goethe Institute, Bamako, Mali.
2010 Borders Master class, Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Press for Thabiso Sekgala
Thabiso Sekgala / The Con / South Africa / 23 October 2014Thabiso Sekgala - The Runaway by Musa Nxumalo (443.5 KB)
Thabiso Sekgala / Mail and Guardian / South Africa / 24 - 30 October 2014Suicide stills another rising star by Sean O'Toole (292.2 KB)