South African artist Lady Skollie is a creative force to be reckoned with. Born in 1987 Lady Skollie (real name Laura Windvoge) is part of a new generation of artists in South Africa who are working within and against the digital sphere, and her work emanates a captivating and sensual energy across the range of mediums that she works with. Her most recent, and first solo, exhibition ‘Lust Politics’ at the Tyburn Gallery gave the city a riveting introduction to her provocative vision, and followed on from an acclaimed stint at Frieze last year. Twin caught up with Lady Skollie to talk working in South Africa, having a sense of humour and how women are going to lift each other up.
Growing up, were you always inclined to express yourself visually? How did your aesthetic develop?
When I was about 4 the Zorro franchise was really taking off in South Africa. I crawled underneath my mum’s tables, beds, inside cupboards and covered everything’s underside with wax crayon Z’s – all in different sizes. I remember being terrified that my mother would realize. So I suppose I have always expressed myself visually. When I was younger I thought that to be an artist you needed to paint realistically, and then I understood that my mark making did not need to be mimetic to be respected or convey a message. I took inspiration from Khoisan drawings because of my own Khoisan culture – as a coloured South African, and my work just became hard, fast, fluid.
Where did the name Lady Skollie come from?
Lady Skollie, for me, has been a lesson in identity. I’ve always had these disparate elements of my personality. Not long ago I wore cute 1950s dresses and had ringlets. Although I looked like a lady, inside I felt this urge to rail against authority and challenge the norm. I would talk about sex and paint little dicks on people’s things. Lady Skollie was a performative thing; it was the space where these two things -masculinity and femininity – met.
Your work is striking and honest, drawing on personal experience. When you started did you ever worry that it wouldn’t resonate with a wider audience?
No, this was never a worry really because I also draw on a range of socio-political issues, like rape, rape culture and plight of women, which are so prevalent within our wider society. They are issues which everyone, even those outside South Africa, should engage with.
It is time for people to feel uncomfortable, and for people to ask themselves very hard questions about how they relate to women, how they treat them, how they talk to them.
Your most recent exhibition was called Lust Politics. Do you think there is always a relationship between the visceral and the political?
Yes, from Monica Lewinsky to Marilyn Monroe to politicians blocking any means for women to have a more equal life or even just reproductive rights. I think there has always been a love hate relationship between politics and lust.
The names of your work are as powerful as the pieces themselves, which comes first when you start to create?
Usually the writing comes first. The works come separately and then I edit and chop to make the writing and the work correlate more.
You’re wrestling with gender, sex and societal structures, why did you want to investigate these ideas in ink and crayon?
I like the tension between a granny-like medium like watercolour and the garish, crayon drawings of sex. Depicting something as visceral as sex with a medium as soft and delicate as watercolour and childlike crayon is thrilling.
Why do you want to use humour in your work?
In South Africa humour is often used a vehicle for social change. People don’t always want to listen if you are being serious. They would rather not listen to preaching and they don’t want to hear about rape stats, HIV stats, etc. I think in some ways I’m pretty funny, so I use humour as a way of unwrapping serious issues in a palatable way – so that people will actually start thinking about change.
One of your pieces focusses on the ups and downs of competitive sisterhood. As you see it, how can women better enable each other?
Women need to engage with each other about issues; communication is key to a united front, and we need one. At the moment, I definitely feel part of a zeitgeist and movement, especially in South Africa, where women are speaking up against feminine debasement and subjugation. Whether we make a social commentary with watercolours or whether we post an online status – that is what I’m part of.
How does Johannesburg influence your work?
J’burg pushes you to achieve things you might have only ever thought about; it’s a city that’s totally alive. My surroundings make a big impact on my work, and I think it’s important to address issues around gender and sexuality because Johannesburg, and South Africa in general, is rife with sexual assaults and abuse. Art is an accessible way to bring up the narrative and I think we need to talk about it more and more and more.
Is now an exciting time to be an artist in South Africa?
Being an artist in South Africa right now is very important and very exciting. Finally the international market is catching on, and it’s actually becoming a financially viable option. In J’burg there are a lot of new independent studios opening where people are reclaiming spaces, especially in Troyeville which was a huge centre of resistance during apartheid. Most of Troyeville is studios, huge buildings which were abandoned in the ‘70s and are now being taken over and are really cost-effective. People are now offering funded residencies. As a creative person it’s a real privilege to have a space to make, without the worries of having to generate a huge income to sustain it.
What are your processes when working? Do you have a specific routine?
It’s difficult to say, because my process entirely varies; I don’t really have a specific routine when it comes to making work. However, usually I think about the image for a long time before making a single mark. Sometimes I write about the work before I create it, which allows me to have a context for it. I listen to a lot of hip hop in the studio; hip hop can take you places and it especially helps me with confidence.
Who are the artists that inspire you?
I am totally inspired by Athi Patra Ruga’s ability to immerse you into his world without even trying. Also Robert Mapplethorpe, for his beautiful way of shocking and Mary Sibande for her sheer brilliance of identity dynamics.
What’s next for you? And what are you most excited about?
I prefer not to talk about ‘what’s next’. I am in the present; I’m hard, fast, now. I don’t play to anybody’s rules. I am a rebellious person!
South African Carla Fonseca is a woman with many strings to her bow. She is an actor, director and artist, but it is her role as lead vocalist for the group Batuk that sees her performing in the UK this weekend. With influences spanning afrohouse, soul, zouk, kuduro, deep house, techno and traditional African music, Fonseca is joined in Batuk by South African producers, beat makers, directors and visionaries Spoek Mathambo and Aero Manyelo.
Given her creative background, Fonesca was responsible for art directing Batuk’s musiv videos for ‘Daniel’, ‘Forca Forca’, ‘Puta’ and ‘Call Me Naughty’. In addition to this, she has also displayed her work at the likes of FNB ART Fair, Turbine Art Fair, Cape Town Art Fair, Basha Uhuru Festival, GIPCA’s Biannual Live Art Festival, and Johannesburg Art Week over the years. Here, Twin discovers more…
Welcome to the UK, you’re doing a few shows here right now…is this your first time performing here?
It is my first time in the UK, and our first time performing here as a group. Spoek and Aero have both played here many times before.
How would you describe what you do to a complete stranger?
I am a performance artist. A lover of all raw and honest performance work.
Is your music political? Does it have a particular message you’d like to convey? Isn’t everything political? Even a party song can be political. We have many messages in our music. It is important for an artist to have messages serve as through-lines in their work….or else it becomes weightless. It is our duty. In Batuk’s music we speak about love, war, sexuality, drug abuse, dreams, family, culture. Everything that is important to us, everything that we want to address and interrogate and express.
How does the music scene differ here in comparison with South Africa? The Internet is alive, which allows people from all over the world to share and be influenced at the click of a button. We are all connecting news, pictures, videos, rhythms and sounds so quickly…there are many things artists share purely based on rapid and wide information exposure. There’s an insanely dynamic buzz in South Africa that cannot be compared. A buzz brewed by 12-year-olds on laptops producing out-of-this-world music that receives 100,000 hits after only a week of uploading. Our many rich languages and cultures and links to neighbouring countries give us a really broad and direct access to diversification and constantly new, fresh material.
Would you call yourself a feminist? And what is feminist scene like in SA? Being a feminist has so many definitions these days, sometimes it confuses me. So I will answer by saying that I am a person who supports the rights of women and girls and their incredible power. It is a wonderful and revolutionary time to be female in South Africa….a time where young women are standing up and taking their positions as leaders and as power sources. A time where patriarchal structures are really struggling to stay standing. In my work I am constantly creating protest pieces in honor of women and their struggles and their victories.
There is an essence of strong, very visual artists such as MIA and Solange in a few of your videos – the sense of identity and power are palpable. How do you come up with the concepts? And do they ever differ in reality? Hahahaha…I think women with bold ideas and good execution will most likely be compared to one another. They are both two incredibly phenomenal women, I’m flattered. Batuk’s concepts are all honest expressions…if we have an idea, we work together to make it as strong as possible…visceral and beautiful. My art imitates life, and life reciprocates the gesture.
How have you found the industry to be so far? Have you encountered much bullshit? I’m not into bullshit, I don’t accept it. If you bring bullshit anywhere near me, I move. Like any industry there is a lot of shit, but the objective should always be to stay focussed by not entertaining anything negative or anything that tries to come against you and your passion.
Who else, musically or creatively, is exciting you right now? There’s an artist/painter by the name Alexa Meade, she has recently just created work titled Color of Reality. It’s so incredible how her work absorbs me into a dream world. She is famous for inventing a technique that optically transforms the 3-dimensional world into a 2-dimensional painting. Absolutely insane and captivating work.
What should fans expect from your live shows? Expect a lot of energy…a lot of good, powerful, uplifting energy. An energetic exchange that’ll have them busting dance moves that they never thought they had!
Batuk will tour Europe this September and October, with a headline show at London’s Jazz Café on October 15th.
It is not often that you arrive to an exhibition where the artist has not yet seen the final work, but such was the case for pioneering South African painter Esther Mahlangu, who made the very special trip from her home to Frieze London to see the fruits of her latest collaboration with BMW.
Mahlungu’s first project with the car manufacturer was in 1991 when she followed in the footsteps of male artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein to create an Art Car for the brand, the first female and non-Western artist to take part this car came to define an important moment for female artists.
Twenty-five years later her signature traditional Ndebele paintings of bold primary hues and stark black lines have been used to transform the interior of a new 7 Series, and Mahlangu seemed more than impressed with the final result as the BMW team revealed the finished piece inside their Frieze lounge area in London.
Speaking to Twin about the differences between her large-scale creation in 1991 and the updated subtle approach she has taken in 2016, it was the size of the work that changed her approach. “In 1991 [the project] was huge, enormous as it was exterior.” Mahlangu said. “With the interior I had to be more subtle, to do the construction and think about the process. Usually when I create something, everything is in my head.”
“The biggest difference though is that 1991 was just an art object, where as this one is a useable functional object,” explained Mahlangu, as we watched the car go up for silent auction following its unveiling. With bidding beginning at £120,000, this collector’s item is the pinnacle in functional art, praising new technology whilst celebrating the traditional techniques in Esther’s work.
An emblem of serenity, Mahlangu’s presence at the bustling fair was more than humbling. Now aged 81 and adorned in a sea of beaded accessories, bright swathes of fabric and silver necklaces, she is as iconic as her work, upholding the traditions of South Ndebele people of Mpumalanga in South Africa through both her art and her clothing.
Beginning her artistic career aged ten, Mahlangu was taught the Ndebele painting techniques by her grandmother and mother, who used the same techniques to paint the walls of houses. Her methods have not altered since she was first taught, even for projects such as this.
“I only work with chicken feathers,” she explained. “So in the [1991 project] I would bind at least five chicken feathers together to make a brush, whereas with this one I used a singular chicken feather to make the thin line, so you have to have much more control over the thin line than the thicker line.”
The traditions of painting were only carried out by women in South Africa, and have diminished since females have left to travel or take employment elsewhere. This has made Mahlangu’s work all the more important.
“As long as I am able to move I will paint because my fear is that the culture will die out and that is a reality,” she said. “I’ve been working with different brands like Belvedere and did the [Etys] shoes. When people ask why I prefer to work with all of the different brands, I say when they bring me something to do I can’t say no because when I die someday, somebody will own something of mine.”
The BMW Individual 7 Series by Esther Mahlangu is available to bid on now.
For the first time, the maison of Louis Vuitton has unveiled a series of seven fragrances, created by master perfumer Jacques Cavallier Belletrud. The accompanying campaign, shot by Patrick Demarchelier, features the sultry gaze of Palm d’Or-winning actress Léa Seydoux.
Of the range of scents in the premier collection – ‘Rose des Vents’, ‘Turbulences’, ‘Dans la Peau’, ‘Apogée’, ‘Contre Moi’, ‘Matière Noire’ and ‘Mille Feux’ – a full journey of emotions, from dark to light and self-revelation is the aim.
In keeping with the brand’s history of, and with, travel – Demarchelier and Seydoux journeyed to South Africa to shoot the coinciding ads, and wanted the wet-haired nonchalance of adventure to add to the purity of the actress’s natural beauty, mirroring the simple ethos of the perfumes themselves.
“Louis Vuitton is about travel, but it’s also about dreams. Its spirit blends adventure, discovery and emotion. I am very honoured to embody this universe.” – Léa Seydoux