28 June 2018
Recently, I read a book for my English seminar, The Women of Brewster Place. In the first few pages the womxn (around which the book is centered) are described as follows " They were hard-edged, soft centered, brutally demanding, and easily pleased." It was a descriptor that left me reeling - like the touch of a lost lover; familiar and yet foreign simultaneously. I cannot say whether it was the the honesty therein or the humanity scribbed into those words that left me trying to match other womxn (besides myself, the womxn in my family, some of my good friends and Rihanna) to this descriptor. Lady Skollie is one of the few womxn who matched this descriptor in my head.
I hate the fact that some of you won't know who she is, but in all fairness the powers of neo-colonial erasure can feel undefeated and unmatched at times. So I'll tell you what I know of my hero; the Khoisan- sexually-charged- knife- wielding samurai Lady $kollie. [Disclaimer : what I know is predominantly informed by google, her website and my unbridled enthusiasm and adoration]. In a society being held in a choke-hold by the patriarchal after-life of Apartheid, which has now unceremoniously birthed and abandoned a femicide - she is perhaps one of the only artistic voices dedicated to documenting... well life -at its ugliest- which is life at it's most honest. It would be remiss to describe Lady $kollie's work as anything other than progressive. For the small minded cynic that has been ingrained in you by a failing capitalist society, I can hear you, suppressing an itching desire to make the audacious and false remark "Well even I could do that". By that, I mean the following
To which I must respond :
No. You couldn't.
And here's why - context.
Artists work is almost always a manifestation of their lived experience - to assume you have the same lived experience is a bold-faced lie.
Look at them again.
Read the captions below and really think.
You, quick to criticize, sitting dikbek on your tannies couch, contributing almost nothing to the world except for your opinion -which newsflash, everyone has one.
Could you ?
"Kind of, sort of, united we stand: the ups and downs of competitive sisterhood" (2016)
Crayon, ink, collage and 24ct gold leaf on Fabriano
59 2/5 × 59 4/5 in; 151 × 152 cm
They'll suck you dry, beware, (2016)
Ink, crayon and 24ct gold leaf on Fabriano
59 2/5 × 65 in; 151 × 165 cm
First Bite : She didn't give him the apple : She didn't want to Share the knowledge (2017)
Ink and Crayon on Fabriano 200x150 cm
Just a bunch of Dicks and other collective nouns pertaining to patriarchy and protecting the infamous, enabling 'Bro-Code'(2016)
Ink and crayon on Fabriano
27 3/5 × 19 7/10 in; 70 × 50 cm
Pink Dick: Sometimes I reluctantly reflect on all the times I allowed my pussy to be colonized (2016)
Ink and crayon on Fabriano, mounted in plexiglas
82 7/10 × 39 2/5 in; 210 × 100 cm
On the subject of consent: "Don't worry about it; around here RED MEANS GO!" (2016)
Ink, crayon on Fabriano
39 1/5 × 27 4/5 in; 99.5 × 70.5 cm
I have a feeling that scrolling through this article must have felt something like receiving a sext in the company of others. Except that the content of this sext is well... an expressive footnote from a deeply traumatized society, curated in an almost palatable fashion. I compare her works to a sext only because a sext has the capacity to make us uncomfortable when we're confronted with it, in front of other people and I can't help but think that it is therein that Lady $kollies magic is captured. Her work is social commentary at it's finest and it is social commentary coming from a Khoisan womxn in the ever so predictable, homogenized art world. (I refer to Lady $kollie as Khoisan which is her preferred racial identity. She refuses to adopt the identity as coloured given the colonial marker therein).
Lady $kollie grapples with societal issues (like rape culture, gender-based violence, racial inequality, the history of colonialism, gender polarity, sex politics and agency) and aptly captures and repackages this into art - in a witty and yet undeniably confrontational way. Lady $kollie investigates South African trauma as a womxn of colour, trauma which is normally captured in statistical analysis reports. Reports which are then lazily read out during SONA which people only tune into to get their fill of political carnage. There is a hyper-awareness in her work about boundaries and who sets them - the dangers of respectability politics and adhering thereto. All of which can be demonstrated by her name - Lady $kollie. In an interview with Dazed said the following when asked about her alias :
"Skollie' is a term used to describe a shady character, most often for the mere fact that they're a person of colour, in a place they should not be (according to the white minority). I am also interested in the way the word 'Skollie' was used to oppress and stereotype… Now owning a pair of Air Maxes renders you a 'gangster' and 'street' and the term 'Skollie' is now a badge of honour. I am interested in the way street cred can be bought and curated. Mostly Lady Skollie is a play on the two parts of my personality that are often at war with each other. A couple of years ago, I had these ringlets and cute 1950s dresses. But inside, I always had this element of the obscene: wanting to be against authority, to challenge the norm. I looked like a little lady, but my mouth would be dirty. Lady Skollie is a space where those two things are harmonious."
We had a rather tame, micro-managed, debate in my Visual Studies class in which white students presumed to speak on behalf of artists of colour - asserting that our artistic endeavors can be 'simply be art for art's sake'. And this conversation enraged me for a variety of reasons, but what I could not deny was this : existing as a womxn of colour in this country is a political rebellion. If your body is politicized with or without your consent - so too would any work you produce. It is Lady $kollies negotiation with this politicized rebellion that I have fallen in love with. In our community, patriarchy is the backbone of the dying familial corpse- poisoned by spacial Apartheid and colonialism. This means we, as Khoi girls, are either spoken to at length about sex (given the underage pregnancy epidemic in our communities) or not at all. For a Khoi womxn to boldly and publicly talk about sex (in her radio show) is unheard of. To depict sexual imagery in public- is cause for a family meeting in which the judgmental patriarchal custodians (the elder anties) shame you into an early grave, listing all the reasons why no one would marry you. Yup. Because our biggest fears consist of not getting married - not like being viciously murdered, raped or kidnapped.
Straddling the complex and uncomfortable relationship that womxn in South Africa have with sex and intimacy can be read as central to a great deal of Lady $kollies work. During my research, I couldn't help but to feel that it is the richness of her personhood reflected in her art -which encouraged other writers to subtly undermine her work describing it as "erratic", "fiesty". "impulsive" and "youthful". When in reality, her work is meticulously thought out - all of which is undermined by the stupidity of these descriptors. And again it becomes abundantly clear just how political her art is - as it provokes thoughts about who has the luxury of producing work that can be taken seriously as art and who is in charge of femme sexuality.
An activist. A feminist. Subjected to scrutiny- a tale as old as time.
The peanut gallery is always inclined to ask whether or not $kollies work is just about "shock value" - and this insistence in numerous articles shocked me, only because it is a direct reflection of :
who is assumed to be genuine in their depictions of trauma
whose trauma is assumed to be valid
the dangers of trauma consumption and how it can be curated; engineered for the art world
who is allowed to contribute to discussions around sex
whose stance regarding sex is acceptable
why many womxn of colour don't bother to acquire the vocabulary of artistic and emotional expression
Something about the insistence of labeling someones artistic expression as solely 'shock value' left me uncomfortable in the reality that a Khoi womxn expressing herself publicly could so easily be labelled as absurdly shocking - as if our lived experiences could somehow be caricatured. On her shock value she said the following during a Dazed interview "“I have a desire to be provocative in life in general; it can have its drawbacks but shock value has always had high worth to me. People like to be shocked more than they like being preached to; finding the right balance is important.”
Half an hour after Apartheid, it is unbelievable that people still find it shocking for a womxn to talk so candidly about sex- but then again I think this article is the most I've ever typed out the word in my life. Nonetheless, it is the wonderful nuance of shock value that I believe Lady $kollie has mastered in her sexual content and I revel in it. The look of quiet intrigue, ingrained outrage and suppressed curiosity that I know some viewers have when engaging with her work, I revel in it. I revel - much like Lady $kollie- in a certain level of provocation.
In an unintentional challenge to stereotypes and how we embrace, reject and construct them Lady $kollie has said the following
“I am angry about a lot of things. Mostly pertaining to existing on this planet as a woman”.
A truth which I relate to on a spiritual level and a quote I want printed on a t-shirt. And there it is - why she is my Khoisan knife-wielding samurai hero... well in part. Lady $kollie actually carries knives which she displays on her Instagram of which I am an avid fan, despite my fathers unparalleled stress pertaining thereto.
In Summation, Lady $kollies work for me feels a lot like a comment that someone makes in passing that was intended to be humorous but somehow it rubbed you up the wrong way. It lies next to you at night for weeks on end - leaving you deep within thought and one day you get it - the humour, the real intention, not blatantly apparent but after some investigation...exploration... the whole thing makes sense.
So what would you consider yourself?
Are you a comment scribbled brilliantly into the margins of this book we call life, a comment so truthful and upsetting that no one dare erase you? Or are you the margins holding everything in order, in line, predictable, averse to upset and unyielding in the face of change?