An upcoming exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is bringing together seminal works by the late South African photographer Thabiso Sekgala.
Here Is Elsewhere is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the UK and will focus around his career-defining series Homeland, taken in the former homelands of Bophuthatswana and KwaNdebele, territories established by the apartheid government to house black South Africans forced to leave urban areas.
This important early work explores the notion of home, place and belonging, and touches on both the artist’s personal history and the political history of South Africa (Sekgala was born in the township of Soweto but grew up in KwaNdebele).
Along with striking portraits of young people living in these areas – the "born-free generation" who grew up after the first democratic elections in 1994 – the series features elegiac photographs of landscapes, buildings and everyday objects. Through these indirect, subtle and nuanced photographs, Sekgala illustrates the lasting geopolitical effect of apartheid.
In 2013 he said: "I am inspired by looking at human experience whether lived or imagined. Images capture our history, who we are, our presence and absence. My work is influenced by growing up in both rural and urban South Africa.
"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. My focus is on landscape and portraiture, looking on how young people relate to their landscape and also finding their own identities. My work is the culmination of the exploration of memory, place and interrelated self-imagining."
Here Is Elsewhere will also feature photographs from two further series: Domestic (2012), an intimate meditation on everyday life, and Second Transition (2014), which addresses South Africa’s vast economic inequality through photographs of the platinum-producing mining town of Rustenburg.
The exhibition also includes images from Running Bulawayo, Running Amman and Paradise (all 2013) – taken during periods spent in Bulawayo, Amman and Berlin, respectively – which speak to the experiences of displacement, migration and the pursuit of unattainable ideals.
The title of the exhibition, Here Is Elsewhere, draws on Sekgala’s own writing about his work, and speaks of his ability to create images that are at once intimate and elusive, and that capture a specific time and place while remaining decidedly universal.
Here Is Elsewhere is a free exhibition at Hayward Gallery’s HENI Project Space, sponsored by The African Arts Trust. It runs from 28 August until 6 October 2019.