Ten’s To See: ‘Here is Elsewhere’ by Thabiso Sekgala at the Hayward Gallery
Homeland, Johanna Mthombeni (2009); Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery
“I am inspired by looking at human experience whether lived or imagined. Images capture our history, who we are, our presence and absence,” said the late South African photographer Thabiso Sekgala back in 2013. At the time, his docu photo series Homeland was on a world tour as part of Okwui Enwezor’s travelling exhibition Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life. Sekgala’s project of illustrating the post-Apartheid generation was one of the spotlights of the show and was setting him up for a success story at the young age of 22. Sadly, the photographer’s life was cut short when he died the following year. But thanks to the the power of photography, the important message of his work continues to live on. And from today, Homeland as well as Sekgala’s several other projects are on display at the HENI Project Space in Hayward Gallery. Here Is Elsewhere is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the UK and consists from around 50 different photographic works, the main subject of it being the South African communities and their homes.
Homeland, Thembi Mathebulaor Nzimande, Siyabuswa, former Kwandebele (2009); Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery
As mentioned, Homeland (2009-2011) is the focus of the exhibition as it is still considered to be Sekgala’s magnum opus, particularly for its personal point of view in documentary photography. While exploring “geopolitical effect of apartheid,” the striking portraits profile young people living in the areas of Bophuthatswana and KwaNdebele as part of the “born-free generation”. During the racial segregation system, black South Africans were forced to leave urban areas and re-build their lives in these separated areas. Looking into notions of home, place and belonging, Sekgala captured the youth who grew up after the first democratic elections in 1994 which also marked the official end of Apartheid. The imagery doesn’t need explanations or background stories – the way he paints with light is poetic and subtle, finding both humour and seriousness in the relationship his subjects have with their surrounding and what came before.
Second Transition, Tiger (2012); Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery
Here Is Elsewhere also hosts some of Sekgala’s later projects, including Domestic (2012) which represents intimate pondering and mundanity of everyday life. In one of his last ever series, Second Transition (2014), it was once again the socio-political approach that shined through, as his homeland’s great economic inequalities transition from the platinum-producing mining town of Rustenburg and onto the photographic paper. Perhaps lesser known but no less captivating, the images from the Paradise (2013) series were taken during one of Sekgala’s trips to Berlin. They play up to the experiences of displacement as part of migration. As a foreigner himself, Thabiso Sekgala has an incredible empathy for the people in front of his lens which comes through in the honest and raw photographs that still carry a sense of beauty.
‘Here is Elsewhere’ by Thabiso Sekgala is on display at the HENI Project Space in Hayward Gallery until October 6th. Admission free.
Homeland, Ndeble art with new South African flag, Siyabuswa, former Kwandebele (2011); Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery
Homeland, Jane Nkuna, Loding, former Kwandebele (2009); Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery