May 12 to October 5, 2023

Artist Meets Archive #3: Lebohang Kganye

Shall You Return Everything, but the Burden

A woman carries a heavy bundle on her shoulder through a picturesque landscape. Suddenly she stops, takes a vessel from her shawl and pours earth onto the ground. This symbolic gesture of return is South African artist Lebohang Kganye's artistic response to her encounter with the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum's (RJM) photo collection The film "A Burden consumed in Sips," which the artist produced during her Artist Meets Archive residency at the museum at the invitation of the International Photoscene, depicts this scene. It is part of the exhibition "Lebohang Kganye. Shall You return Everything, but the Burden?" which opens at the RJM on May 11 for the 2023 Photoscene Festival.

Who owns the inventories of an archive? Who owns the objects in a museum and what should be done with them? Because of these and other questions, the ethnological museum in particular is one of the most controversial places today. This is exactly the place Lebohang Kganye goes to with her work in the photo archive. The starting point of Lebohang Kganye's work are illustrations and photographs by the German painter and photographer Marie Pauline Thorbecke, who from 1911-1913 undertook an expedition to Cameroon together with her husband Franz Thorbecke on behalf of the German Colonial Society. "After opening various boxes in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, I discovered landscape depictions in panoramic format and line drawings on aged paper. I was magically drawn to the view of this `untouched paradise' and the emptiness of the `painterly African landscape.' I recognized the colonial irritation marked by historical violence. My engagement with this encounter was my way of seeing the country," Kganye says.

The South African photographer and "storyteller" - as she describes herself - traveled through Cameroon again 110 years later on these photographic tracks. She traveled to nine places, met people and read books that illuminate the colonial era from a Cameroonian perspective. It is an approach to a history from different perspectives. Kganye interweaves these different sides of the same story in her installation "Two Stories of (Hi)stories Betray me," which she created especially for the exhibition. In six stage-set-like scenes, the artist interweaves anecdotes and stories from Cameroon with Thorbecke's historical photographs and her own personal story. She is not concerned with re-centering colonial protagonists in photographs. Kganye uses the existing images to produce new ones. In doing so, she detaches them from their purely colonial context, finds and establishes new contexts of meaning, and questions the significance of these images in the present.

The exhibition will be flanked by a broad program of events focusing on German-Cameroonian colonial history and the medium of photography.

The show is part of the core program of the Photoszene Festival 2023 and is part of the Photoszene program Artist Meets Archive, for which international artists* are invited to work at Cologne institutions to develop an exhibition for the Photoszene Festival. The other exhibitions of Artist Meets Archive take place at the NS-Dokumentationszentrum, the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst and the Rheinisches Bildarchiv at the Handwerkskammer. All dates at:

This year, the RJM will be the festival center in the heart of the city. In addition to the exhibition by Lebohang Kganye, on another level of the building, more than 40 international students will show highly topical perspectives of a multi-voiced present in over 40 photo books under the title 'FIRST PAGES' as part of the exhibition series 'Counter Images | Gegenbilder'. In this environment, over 25 national and international publishers and artists* will present themselves at the Thousandfold Photobook Fair on May 13 and 14. On the same weekend, this year's Portfolio Review SICHTBAR offers a combination of booked expert talks and a Portfolio Walk, where both festival visitors and invited professionals can view the submitted works.



Lebohang Kganye was born in 1990 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she currently lives and works. Kganye began her photography studies at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in 2009 and graduated from the Advanced Photography program in 2011. In 2014, she earned a Diploma in Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg and is currently in the Master of Fine Arts program at Witwatersrand University. Kganye belongs to a new generation of contemporary South African artists. Primarily known for her photographs, she often incorporates archives and the performative into her artistic practice. Storytelling and memory as it plays out in familial experience is central to her work. Kganye's interest in the materiality of photography is ongoing and she explores this in a variety of ways through the use of sculpture, performance, and moving images.

In 2022, she was one of three contemporary artists* to represent South Africa at the Venice Biennale. Her recent exhibitions include the Paul Huf Award Winner Exhibition at FOAM Amsterdam, As We Rise by Aperture at the University of Toronto Art Museum, Tell Me What You Remember: Sue Williamson and Lebohang Kganye at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and many more.



Further info

Nanette Snoep/RJM

Lucia Halder/RJM

Project Management Artist Meets Archiv
Helena Weber/International Photoscene Cologne

Program Management Artist Meets Archiv
Inga Schneider/International Photoscene Cologne

Exhibition design
Mirko Podkowik/running water

Graphic design
Studio Carmen Strzelecki


6€/erm. 4€