Thabiso Sekgala: Here is Elsewhere review

3 out of 5 stars
Thabiso Sekgala: Here is Elsewhere review
Thabiso Sekgala_ Homeland, Johanna Mthombeni, 2009_ Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Thabiso Sekgala’s story is only half-told. The South African photographer came to his medium late, aged 27, and left it early, taking his own life in 2014 at just 33. So what you see across these walls are only the beginnings of an artist.

He captures scenes from the South African homelands – rural towns built to house the country’s black communities – alongside mining towns, the Middle East and Berlin.

The same features appear and reappear constantly: houses, fences, gates and crumbling walls. They’re the architecture of a home, but also of division, of containment and separation. It’s where people live and where people are forced to live. Umbrellas pop up a lot too, shading their holders from the rain and sun, perfect portable shelters.

Sekgala’s aesthetic is soft, grainy, sun-drenched and analogue. These are parched grounds, landscapes saturated with heat and colour. Everything is frozen, calm, considered. Sekgala’s is art about belonging to and navigating the world. Only the portraits let him down: too obvious, too staged, lacking – for the most part – in his usual subtle fierceness.

The early works here are better than the later ones, full of the naïve accidental freedom of youth and inexperience. Sekgala’s images are good photographs: they’re not brilliant, but they are the beginnings of brilliance, they’re just half the story, and it’s a story that we’ll never get to see unfold properly.


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