These photographs are the inheritance that helped me heal

 
 
 

Lebohang Kganye flipped through the albums. A young woman smiled up from the photos, a familiar face from a time she didn’t recognise. After her mother’s death, Kganye searched for her presence. Afraid of forgetting the person she knew – her voice, her personality, her movements – Kganye put on her mother’s clothes and imitated her poses in the family snapshots. As she photographed these recreations, Kganye began bridging the space between loss and the continuation of life.

By superimposing her self-portraits onto the old photographs, Kganye creates a striking sequence of images. She emulates her mother’s vibrancy, as the double exposure reflects the connection between parent and child. But the effect also emphasises their division in time, and Kganye’s attempt to understand her mother’s experiences. “Photography gives you the space to mourn a person or to celebrate them,” Kganye says. Her series, Ke Lefa Laka: Her-story, is a profound homage to the woman who raised her.

This journey of learning about her mother inspired Kganye to continue investigating her roots. In the follow-up series Ke Lefa Laka: Heir-story, Kganye focuses on her grandfather, a man she never met but whose life she visualises through her images. “At the same time as exploring the nature of memory itself, these photographs are a way of remembering,” Kganye says. Memories can be unreliable. They fade with time. But the spirits of our loved ones remain when we tell their stories.