Laura Windvogel, better known to us as Lady Skollie, chats to me about her upcoming show Groot Gat as she feeds her newborn baby boy Win. In between recently accepting the accolade of Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Visual Art and preparing a new body of work for her upcoming exhibition at the end of June, she’s also found time to become a mother. The last few months have been a whirlwind for this talented creative activist.
Lady Skollie has been an outspoken presence on the South African and international art scene since 2014. She has exhibited in several group and solo exhibitions and successfully harnessed the power of social media and art to bring her messages of sexual, cultural and gender empowerment to audiences beyond the borders of her home country. The style of her effervescent, textured and exuberant works is immediately recognizable, and they speak to what it means to be a womxn and a person of colour in a world antagonistic to these identities.
As she tends to Win, she tells me about how she’s feeling about Groot Gat, her upcoming show opening on 24 June at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown). “I’m very excited. I won the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts, then found out I was pregnant, and I made the show during that time, and now I’m excited to see how everything comes together and how it moves through the country.” Groot Gat is at once a reference to the Boesmansgat water hole in the Northern Cape from which Lady Skollie has drawn inspiration for this body of work, in addition to being a striking acknowledgement of the holes left behind in First Nation knowledge systems by destructive processes such as colonialism and Apartheid. For the people of the area, this body of water was important for survival. It’s now been appropriated by free divers. “The show is all about water, about beings in water and mythical stuff,” Lady Skollie says. “The gaps (in knowledge) are always filled by other people. They’ll say, ‘Hey, did you know this?’ It’s about filling in the gaps and finding things out about yourself continuously. It’s about learning ourselves as an act of resistance.”
Water is a complex, politically loaded medium. It’s essential for life, is often at the forefront of geopolitical dispute, and has facilitated the movement of people across the globe for generations, for good or bad. Lady Skollie’s work engages with the complexity of water and makes of it a magical, imaginary space where coloured people express themselves with no limitations and no colonial baggage dragging them down. It’s not lost on me that there’s a deep irony in Makhanda being chosen as the site for this exhibition, and the fact that this small Eastern Cape town has been battling water issues for years as taps regularly run as dry as municipal maintenance accounts.
There is a touch of Afrofuturism to Lady Skollie’s brightly vibrant depictions of mystical beings adorning cave walls, presided over by the guardian figure of Bushman artist Coex’ae Qgam. Like the Kenyan-born artist Wangechi Mutu, she fashions a world lingering just out of reach, one that images powerful transformations to challenge our ideas of what is real. Lady Skollie’s watery paradise exists on the other side of Boesmansgat, and it’s where San, Khoi and Griqua peoples enjoy an existence undisturbed by the ravages of time and the purposeful rubbing out of their inherited knowledge. Don’t miss this exhibition.
Lady Skollie’s new exhibition will debut on 24 June at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda.