Arts + Culture

Lady Skollie's Bold Solo Exhibition, 'Lust Politics,' Critiques Your Assumptions On Sex and Consent

Artist Lady Skollie speaks in depth on her first solo exhibition outside of South Africa currently on view at London's Tyburn Gallery.

Lady Skollie is a provocateur, and thank heavens for that.


Born Laura Windvogel she has adopted the moniker that very well captures her public persona and, by a long way, her first ever solo exhibition outside of her native South Africa called Lust Politics at Tyburn Gallery in London.

"Skollie," in South Africa, is a derogatory term for a non-white person which she has subverted by placing “lady” before it, repurposing the insult as she sees fit.

“Lady” takes the sting away from “Skollie”, and if read the other way, makes less dull or proprietary, the word “Skollie.” This symbiotic-symbolism applies to the title-phrase Lust Politics.

The sexual and sensual are by turns celebrated and the assumptions around it investigated including taboos, consent, gender expectations amongst other weighty concerns—all done employing crayon, watercolor and ink, hardly the weapons of mass intellectual destruction and reformation she has turned them into.

On entering Tyburn Gallery for Lady Skollie’s new exhibition, the first work one sees, Khoisan Kween Mother, is the most imposing, hung directly opposite the entrance.

Khoisan Kween Mother. Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

Before it and tucked under the staircase that leads from the receptionist desk and her sneer of a smile is On the subject of consent 'Don't worry about it; around here RED MEANS GO,' on which is a cluster of red apples, some cut in half.

I ask Ms. Skollie if, considering the title, there was strategic thinking in hanging it close to the entrance.

“I guess if you post-rationalize it, yes. The strangest thing about consent in SA is that it hardly exists; culturally women do not have the agency to say yes, no or please," she says. "We kind of just take what we get regardless of our input. I mean that sexually, emotionally, intellectually; our consent doesn't really matter, so do what you want.”

On the subject of consent 'Don't worry about it; around here RED MEANS GO!' Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com. On the subject of consent 'Don't worry about it; around here RED MEANS GO!' Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com.

Cut-cut, kill-kill, stab-stab is, among other things, a critique of female genital mutilation (FGM) and seeing it was one of very few instances where a painting spoke strongly or simply crystallized the problem for me.

My brain wants to believe it is the most “serious” painting here, but that is probably because the protests against FGM is a current one while the sexuality explored in other paintings is old and continuous, and that is probably why my objection to it isn't as immediate.

I ask Ms. Skollie if this is an acceptable reading, to which she says, “It's funny that you immediately thought of FGM; it's the most literal way that the onslaught on women takes form. You are right in thinking it is the most 'serious' work in the show.” The 18 knives all pointing their sharp edges inches close to a diametrically cut paw paw baring its black core and orange layer is, if not the most serious, then the least playful.

Turns out it is the only work that hasn't been made specifically for Lust Politics, but as a commission by South Africa’s Mail and Guardian to write about being a woman in South Africa, a very broad scope I would think.

“I woke up that morning about to create something hopeful, sprightly even, and then the first thing I saw in the news was the murder of 5-year-old Kutlwano Garesepe who had tried to fight off a man who was trying to rape his mother on their daily walk to school. The image of a little boy fighting a grown man and then being stabbed to death with a bottle neck and put on the train tracks to add insult to injury summarized the rape state we are currently in.”

Cut-cut, kill-kill, stab-stab. Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

The largest painting on display, Khoisan Kween Mother, is also the newest, was started on Tuesday the Jan. 17 and was completed the next day with visitors to the exhibition present. Ms. Skollie unveiled it along with the others works on Thursday, when the exhibition officially opened.

To some, this might come across as showboating, a bid to prove her artistry. But Ms. Skollie courts and embraces public engagement and appears to have little qualms explaining her work—something other artists would balk at, for fear of cheapening or even overselling them, but also to let other find meaning themselves.

In Ms. Skollie’s case, the decision to finish Khoisan Kween Mother before gallery visitors has an added advantage. “I work well under pressure and I wanted to bond with the space and leave my own contemporary version of a Khoisan cave painting but in a U.K. context,” she says.

This brought to mind Kanye West’s epic one night residency at Madison Square Garden last year during which he premiered songs from Life of Pablo and also launch Yeezus 3, the third installment from his fashion label.

All the models did was stand still for over an hour while Kanye sequenced his new songs flanked by friends and acolytes.

Listening to new songs for the first time while they're being played in a packed stadium won't encourage deep appreciation of West’s work.

But watching the creator and curator of these two separate and massive projects in the presence of his creation and curation makes the work immediate, and so allows even more scope for appreciation, by fans and onlookers, if not for the final product, then for the effort he has put into it.

Ms. Skollie has little to say about Mr. West's one night extravaganza, but admits, “Kanye is always an inspiration; I threw a temper tantrum when I didn't win a competition at the Cape Town Art Fair in 2016 and everyone called me Kaapstad Kanye.”

Lady Skollie. Photo by Anthea Pokroy, courtesy Tyburn Gallery. Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com. Lady Skollie. Photo by Anthea Pokroy, courtesy of Tyburn Gallery. Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com.

So the creative lift off from West may have all been in my mind, but as if to strengthen my weak point, I ask Ms. Skollie what she made of Gucci Mane’s “Pussy Print,” which features West, to which she says, “Everyone knows that I sometimes sympathize with the objectification of women in rap way too much.”

An honest admission I didn't expect but should have given how frank Ms. Skollie is. It is an admission with which I and many sympathize. Despite a lifetime of fidelity to hip hop, this objectification still rankles—but not enough to jettison the genre all together.

On the subject of consent and Pussy Prints in name and meaning (or intended meaning) is, to me, strongly reminiscent and just as powerful as Chris Ofili’s Pimpin' ain't easy—an artisanal dick-pick, if I ever saw one.

While at the gallery, Khoisan Courage brought to mind Ofili’s The Healer, but when I dug up his painting I realized the similarities weren't as strong as I thought they were.

I doubted if to bring up the comparison not knowing if Ms. Skollie will warm to it, or if they're just wide off the mark. “Ofili is a huge inspiration, though only in contexts and concept," she says. "And shock value, not particularly visually.”

Khoisan Courage: for my people (Left) Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January–4 March 2017, tyburngallery.com. Photo by Lewis Ronald.

I wasn't altogether wrong then. Like Lady Skollie’s work, Ofili’s early paintings amalgamated the irreverent and the sacrosanct. His later paintings steered clear of the nakedly confrontational and embraced mythology, the explicit making way for the implicit.

Ms. Skollie is in her late 20s as was Ofili when he courted controversy with works like Holy Virgin Mary. He also drew inspiration from Zimbabwean cave paintings as Ms. Skollie has done with Khoisan paintings. Such comparisons are not conclusions on Ms. Skollie’s work, rather, they're mere references.

The brain simply creates contexts when presented with new images and ideas never before encountered. Ms Skollie does not mind the parallels drawn to her work, “Only when I am compared to dead (or living) white artists. I hate it when people say (and they have) 'Oh she's almost like a South African Tracey Emin' then I have to be rude and exclaim "Bitch WHERE?!"

“It's almost as if in SA you only count if you have a vaguely similar white counterpart," she continues. "I lamented this fact to Athi Patra Ruga, who I look up to as an Art Uncle of sorts, and he told me that I have to shut comparisons down. That's the only way [the] SA Art world shows you respect, by comparing you to a white European version of yourself. ”

On a primitive level, this is the mind creating contexts when faced with that which it had never seen or fail to comprehend.

Reading the above statement reminded me of a personal experience. The first time a girl I fell for was going to spend the night, she brought her own condoms which were for me. I was both impressed and surprised and then a little worried that she would carry her own condoms, but they were for me and I had no reason to believe they weren't.

I don't have to think about respecting women because I just do. But even I, in love as I was and I'd say well raised as I am, a conservatism I didn't know I had sprung up. Not that it stopped the business that followed, but it was enough to be a lasting memory, and a subject that i would bring up in an interview 6/7 years later.

Something similar happened when another lady I was dating asked me not to use a condom as she was allergic to latex. It was my first time hearing of such an allergy and then shamefully thought she wanted me to get her pregnant.

Sure enough I went to get tested after the three week wait between act and test, before any possible symptoms are detected, not wanting to take chances. When I asked the doctor, who happened to be female, if there was such a thing as latex allergy, she confirmed it and almost took offense that I would think such a thing didn't exist, and that my girlfriend would lie about such a thing for whatever reasons when she was in fact being sensible.

I think I lost any agency I thought I had being the guy with the condom and in whose house it was all to take place. It might not even be “agency,” but the assumption that I had it, and that was shaken by what is a sensible decision on the girl’s part. Today I'll give my sisters the same advice.

I had a similar reaction when I visited Tyburn. The works in Lust Politics made me re-evaluate the latent assumptions and beliefs I had, and the times I may have bought into my masculinity a little more than I should have.

[oka-gallery]

I'm saying even among seemingly normal and well balanced men, societal assumptions percolate deeply but not always insidiously. Lust Politics, and by extension Ms. Skollie’s podcasts, zine and views each have the power to make one face and reconsider received thinking.

I tell Ms. Skollie of these experiences as responses to Lust Politics and in learning about her work, and ask if she had observations or reactions to them, not wanting any questions I might have to limit the scope of her answers, and she had this to say:

“This is the perfect reaction to those things. I think the work of me wrestling with my daddy issues ties in with this because every day, as liberated and free thinking as I am and sometimes pretend to be, patriarchy also has a psychological effect on my being every day. It's the way we are programmed to be, sometimes I'm confused and I don't know if it's biological or taught.”

“The girl having her own condoms takes the power away from the man and in turn annoys the man," she continues, "Because what if she's using those condoms for someone else too? Possessiveness, jealousy, wanting to be the only one; these things are natural but we are also told that in the liberated mind they should not play a role. I think often we are all being mind fucked and we all don't understand this game.”

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story 'Chibok' was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, 'Have Mercy on Liverpool Street' was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London. You can reach him at sabo.kpade@gmail.com.

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This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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Film
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!

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Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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