Reimagining the history of people of “so-called coloured descent”, one in which they’re led to a promised land free of ignorance and self-hatred, Lady Skollie treads joy, ritual, sex and pain into a new body of Papsak Propaganda wallpaintings, performance, and drawn, printed and painted works on paper.
Alive with emotional, political, sexual turmoil and loud questioning voices, Lady Skollie’s works depict relationships between godlike figures and flawed mortals singing, grunting, reflecting, gushing. Her characters writhe, twist and dance, queue and hold each other up whether on paper, architecture, or on the new five Rand coin that the artist has just produced for her country. Humanity stacked and supporting each other, and sometimes, often, always tumbling down. But they always get up again.
Born in 1987 in Cape Town, Lady Skollie – given name Laura Windvogel – currently lives, works, performs and hustles for centre stage in Johannesburg, South Africa, with storytelling, ink, watercolour, crayon and woodcut printing as her weapons of choice. This first solo exhibition in a public space in Europe presents new works from large scale wall paintings to works on paper and performance, expanding her recent Papsak Propaganda series of works around the Dop system – the official system of paying coloured farm workers in alcohol.
Lady Skollie describes her own work as ‘fire, ritual, Khoisan’, referring to the Khoisan indigenous people of southern Africa, who have lived in the region for thousands of years and to who she connects the self-identifying ‘coloured’ community of South Africa – a multiracial group native to the area and distinct from the ‘black’ and ‘white’ population. The moniker ‘Skollie’ is a common derogatory term used to describe a shady character, historically used in South Africa when a person of colour was in a place deemed unsuitable by the white populace. Lady Skollie embraces this shadiness combining it with an interplay of masculine and feminine energies, creating a space where the disparate parts of her personality are reconciled. The artist explains, “I just like having an alias. You feel like you can take more risks under a pseudonym… there is a psychology behind aliases, a kind of strength that they give you”.
Her persona also exists outside of the artworld loops appearing on the covers of lifestyle and fashion magazines, and her position as an influencer in South Africa is bolstered by her enthusiastic use of Instagram and connections to brand culture. Lady Skollie’s vital, urgent works reveal insights into her own suppressed communities, reflecting an angry overview of the world – from pussy print snake gods whispering at the people to tales of the cultural brain washing of her school days – that makes the artist one of the most exciting image makers on the planet.
Lady Skollie: Lady Skollie
28 September – 14 December 2019
86 Heath Mill Lane
Birmingham B9 4AR
Image source: Eastside Projects