Hommage (1981 – 2014)

One image shows a plastic chair and a timeworn side table placed in the middle of the street. Another picture shows a bowl of oranges waiting to be juiced. And in a third photograph, a car sits idle, parked on an inclined street. Where are the bod- ies that once used or occupied these spaces ? Such unanswerable questions recur throughout Thabiso Sekgala’s last body of work Running, a trilogy series consisting of square-format images in black-and- white and colour. The project is set in the cities where Sekgala spent varying lengths of time as a resident artist in 2013 : Running Bulawayo, Running Amman, and Paradise, taken in Berlin.

In titling his project Running, Sekgala’s use of the gerund signals the continuous act of moving away or towards something or somewhere, yet many of the images complicate this idea as they communicate stillness. For example, Sekgala’s images of Amman—replete with empty roads and abandoned objects—simultaneously register sentiments of motion and stillness due to the city’s geographic location near Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, and Syria— places heaving from sociopolitical unrest. In such precarious situations, one seems to linger in states of expectation that something will happen, or, too, the fear of nothing happening at all.

Concerns with place and time permeate Sekgala’s photographic practice, as does, in many cases, the absence of people. Inspired by the important and incisive documentary work of fellow South African photographers Santu Mofokeng (1956 –) and David Goldblatt (1930 –), Sekgala’s stylistic preference, which borders on the documentary and the conceptual, is visible in much of his earlier work, such as his celebrated project Homelands (2012). In this work, the artist documents the desolate spaces of the landscape reserved for the black majority during Apartheid, exposing living conditions whose social impact remains ever present.

In his photographic pursuit of different places, Thabiso Sekgala may have thought, to quote the lyrics of Gil Scott-Heron’s song Running : “It’s easier to run / easier than staying and finding out you’re the only one...who didn’t run.” From Bulawayo to Berlin, Sekgala’s photography offers glimpses of movement over time, just as it forms a legacy that will endure forever.

Born in 1981 in Johannesburg, South Africa –
Died in 2014

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali