The Barnes Foundation Presents Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember
A cross-generational dialogue on history, memory, and the power of self-narration from two acclaimed South African artists
March 5–May 21, 2023
Press Preview: Wednesday, March 1, 9:30 am
Philadelphia, PA, December 8, 2022—In spring 2023, the Barnes Foundation presents Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember. Bringing together the work of two of South Africa’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, the exhibition offers a cross-generational dialogue on history, memory, and the power of self-narration in the context of apartheid and its legacies. On view in the Roberts Gallery from March 5 through May 21, 2023, and curated by Emma Lewis, curator at Turner Contemporary, Margate, England, this exhibition is the most significant presentation of each artist in the US to date, and the first time their work has been presented in dialogue.
Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal. Additional support is provided by the Honickman Family.
Three decades after the dismantling of apartheid began, the generation born during the transition to democracy has reached adulthood and its artists have used their work to navigate their difficult inheritance. At the same time, the distance between their experience and that of an older generation grows. Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember reflects upon this moment. In their respective practices, Sue Williamson (b. 1941) and Lebohang Kganye (b. 1990) incorporate oral histories into film, photographs, installations, and textiles to consider how the stories elders share—and what they choose to withhold—shape family narratives and personal identities. Exploring the complexities involved in the passing down of memories, their works implicitly and explicitly address racial violence, social injustice, and intergenerational trauma.
“Dr. Albert C. Barnes’s commitment to racial equality, social justice, and education is the historical legacy that we have worked hard to extend and grow in everything we do at the Barnes,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President. “For our first exhibition of 2023, we are proud to present the work of two acclaimed South African artists, Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye. Highlighting the ways in which artists are responding to a critical moment in contemporary South Africa, this is a prescient exhibition that invites audiences to consider how the current political and social landscape in the United States has resonance in a global context.”
Williamson’s early works represent her use of first-person testimony as a means of documenting and contributing to the struggle against apartheid; later, she recorded conversations between women with firsthand experience of enforced segregation and their children or grandchildren—the so-called “born frees.” Kganye draws on conversations with her grandmother and aunts to trace her ancestral roots, revealing histories of displacement and dispossession and highlighting storytelling and song as modes of resistance. By inviting these artists into dialogue, this exhibition is a conversation between women of two generations with shared conviction in the profound importance—and complexity—of recording living memories.
This exhibition features 15 bodies of work, including video installations, photographs, sculptural installations, and textiles. Exhibition highlights include:
- Three works from Sue Williamson’s series Truth Games (1998), which highlights important cases investigated by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Each piece pictures an accuser, a defender, and the event in question. Text lifted from press reports of courtroom evidence is printed on slats that obscure sections of the work. By sliding these slats across the image, viewers are invited to engage with the event and critique how testimony was disseminated by the media.
- Lebohang Kganye’s Mohlokomedi wa Tora (2018), a photographic installation that represents how Kganye’s family’s migration, owing to land acts and apartheid law, resulted in four different spellings of their surname. A central rotating light represents the Sesotho word for light, kganya, which is the etymology of this name. Mohlokomedi suggests the vocation of caretaker, tending to the light that symbolizes her ancestral inheritance.
- Two dual-channel video installations by Williamson, What Is This Thing Called Freedom? (2016) and That Particular Morning (2019), from her series No More Fairy Tales. Made 20 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and shortly after student protests that swept South Africa, when it became clear that many of apartheid’s wounds remain unhealed, these filmed conversations between grandmothers and mothers and their adult children explore intergenerational understanding.
- Williamson’s The Lost District (2019), a painted map of the area of District Six, from which 60,000 residents were forcibly removed between 1968 and 1982. Signage and etched glass panels are installed on the map. When lit, these panels cast shadows that describe the area as it once was. The work is accompanied by oral histories and soundscapes that Williamson made in the community in 1981.
- Kganye’s Dipina tsa Kganya (2021), a three-channel video installation featuring the artist in two performances inspired by the Sesotho oral tradition of direto, the praise-singing of clan names as a way of passing down the origins of the family story as an act of resistance to historical erasure.
- Kganye’s In Search for Memory (2020/2022), in which the artist uses her characteristic technique of cutting out and rearranging archival photographs into stagelike sets to call attention to the gaps, inconsistencies, and fabrications that shape how memories are constructed and passed down. In this series of photographs and accompanying diorama, Kganye creates scenes that imagine a protagonist traveling between apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa and an imagined future to which Nelson Mandela returns.
“At a time of intensified interest in how the ‘past’ is written, and by whom, Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye’s engagement with oral histories reminds us of the quiet urgency of collecting living memories, especially those that speak across the generational divide. This important task resonates far beyond the contexts in which the two artists work,” says curator Emma Lewis. “By bringing into dialogue their varied work with conversation, statement, story, and song, the exhibition explores the very different ways that art can be mobilized to reveal the power—and partiality—of self-narration.”
To learn more about works in Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember, visitors can use Barnes Focus, a mobile guide that works on any smartphone with a web browser. To use it, visitors simply open the guide by navigating to barnesfoc.us on a mobile browser and focus on a work of art; the guide will recognize the work and deliver information about it. Barnes Focus also leverages the Google Translate API, so you can automatically translate the guide into a variety of languages. Barnes Focus was created by the Knight Center for Digital Innovation in Audience Engagement at the Barnes.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, England) emigrated with her family to South Africa in 1948 and today lives and works in Cape Town. Trained as a printmaker, Williamson also works in installation, photography, and video. In the 1970s, she started to make work that addressed social change during apartheid, and by the 1980s, she was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle.
Major international solo exhibitions include Between Memory and Forgetting, The Box, Plymouth, UK (2023); Can’t Remember, Can’t Forget, the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg (2017); Other Voices, Other Cities, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia (2015); Messages from the Moat, Archive Building, Den Haag, Netherlands (2003); and The Last Supper Revisited, the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC (2002). Williamson has participated in biennales around the world, including the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2019) and several Havana Biennales as well as those in Sydney, Istanbul, Venice, and Johannesburg. Group exhibitions include Resist! The 1960s Protests, Photography and Visual Legacy, BOZAR, Brussels (2018); Women House, Monnaie de Paris (2017) and National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2018); Artist and Society: Citizens, Tate Modern, London; Being There, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2017); Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life, International Center for Photography, New York, and Museum Africa, Johannesburg (2014); and The Short Century, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; House of World Cultures, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and MoMA PS1, New York (2001–02).
Williamson’s works feature in public collections across the globe, including those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Wifredo Lam Centre, Havana; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; and Johannesburg Art Gallery. She has received various awards and fellowships such as the Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, Italy (2011); the Visual Artist Research Award Fellowship, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (2007); and the Lucas Artists Residency Fellowship, Montalvo Art Center, California (2005).
Lebohang Kganye (b. 1990, Katlehong, South Africa) lives and works in Johannesburg. Kganye received her introduction to photography at the Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg, in 2009, and completed the advanced photography program in 2011. She obtained a diploma in fine arts from the University of Johannesburg in 2014 and is currently completing an MFA at Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg. Notable awards include the Grand Prix Images Vevey (2021–22), Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize (2020), and Camera Austria Award (2019). As winner of the 2022 Foam Paul Huf Award, in 2023 Kganye will have her first survey exhibition in Europe, Haufi Nyana? I’ve Come to Take You Home, at Foam, Amsterdam.
Earlier solo exhibitions include Dipina tsa Kganya: Leave the Light on When You Leave for Good, Georgian House Museum, Bristol, UK (2022); The Stories We Tell: Memory as Material, George Bizos Gallery, the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg (2020); Ke Lefa Laka: Her-story, Le Molière, Paris (2019); Mohlokomedi wa Tora, Pretoria Art Museum, South Africa (2018); Ke Lefa Laka: Her-story, Festival Africolor at Université Paris 13, Bobigny and Villetaneuse, Paris (2016); and Ke Lefa Laka, Market Photo Workshop, Johannesburg (2013). Group exhibitions include As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic, Toronto, Vancouver, and Salem, Massachusetts (2022–23); Family Affairs: Family in Current Photography, House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2021); The Power of My Hands, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris (2021); and The Way She Looks: A History of Female Gazes in African Portraiture, the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto (2019). Kganye has participated in biennales and triennials around the world, including in the Currency exhibition during the Triennale of Photography Hamburg (2022); Congo Biennale, Kinshasa (2022); Casablanca Biennale, Casablanca, Morocco (2022); and Ozangé, the Spanish Biennial of African Photography, Malaga (2022). In 2022, Kganye was selected as one of three leading contemporary artists to represent South Africa in the 59th Venice Biennale.
Kganye’s work is held in public collections including the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Art Institute of Chicago; Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin; Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; Walther Collection, Ulm, Germany; and Wedge Collection, Toronto.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
An art historian specializing in photography, Emma Lewis is curator at Turner Contemporary, Margate, England. From 2013 to 2022, she served as assistant curator, international art, at Tate Modern, London, where she organized or co-organized numerous exhibitions and permanent collection displays, including Dora Maar(2019), Portraits and Community (2019), and Wolfgang Tillmans(2017). At Tate, she was responsible for researching photography acquisitions for the permanent collection, with a special focus on women’s histories and feminist practices. Lewis regularly contributes to exhibition catalogues and artist monographs. Her first book, Isms: Understanding Photography, was published by Routledge in 2017. Her most recent book, Photography, A Feminist History, was published by Chronicle Books in 2021.
The 160-page, richly illustrated exhibition catalogue, Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember, is published by the Barnes Foundation in association with Yale University Press. Edited by Emma Lewis, the catalogue features contributions by Lebohang Kganye, Sindiwe Magona, Portia Malatjie, Nkgopoleng Moloi, and Sue Williamson and includes essays that consider themes of voice, testimony, ancestry, and care, as well as a dialogue between Kganye and Williamson that explores how art can mobilize the healing powers of conversation.
Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember is organized by the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. It is curated by Emma Lewis, curator at Turner Contemporary, Margate, England.
Sue Williamson & Lebohang Kganye: Tell Me What You Remember is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal.
Additional support is provided by the Honickman Family.
Ongoing support for exhibitions comes from the Christine and Michael Angelakis Exhibition Fund, the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, the Lois and Julian Brodsky Exhibition Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Christine and George Henisee Exhibition Fund, Aileen and Brian Roberts, and the Tom and Margaret Lehr Whitford Exhibition Fund.
In addition, support for all exhibitions comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.
ABOUT THE BARNES FOUNDATION
The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, medieval, and Native American art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.
The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” A visionary collector and pioneering educator, Dr. Barnes was also a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans, women, and the economically marginalized. Committed to racial equality and social justice, he established a scholarship program to support young Black artists, writers, and musicians who wanted to further their education. Dr. Barnes was deeply interested in African American culture and became actively involved in the Harlem Renaissance, during which he collaborated with philosopher Alain Locke and Charles S. Johnson, the scholar and activist, to promote awareness of the artistic value of African art.
Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes Foundation has expanded its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways; investing in original scholarship relating to its collection; and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its programs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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