At the cutting edge of their craft; bold disrupters and innovators who challenge genre, creativity and style.
Meet the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artists.
She was born Laura Windvogel-Molifi, but this artist has achieved renown through the persona of LADY SKOLLIE – a pseudonym she explains as follows:
I want to be a mouthpiece. I’m that dirty auntie skollie who says what you’ve been thinking but never admitted to…
… coaxing things out of you with a bright and sunny disposition. Humour is a vehicle for social change.
There is thus a committed activism underlying her treatment of a range of subjects – in particular, the “forbidden fruit” at the intersection of lust, greed and power, and the deployment of sex as a weapon. Linked to this is her protest against gender-based violence, expressed in images that depict women as shackled, yearning to be free.
She graduated with a degree in art history from the University of Cape Town, and Lady Skollie’s earlier work also engaged in the subversion and appropriation of the European / Western arts canon. She remains playfully resistant to the art establishment, describing herself as “someone who never fit in” and “an art school dropout” when she was younger.
There is an implicit critique here of the whiteness of the art world – skollie, she suggests, is a word that has been used “to describe a person of colour in a place where they are unwanted by its white inhabitants”. Lady Skollie has also explored histories of mistreatment and misrepresentation of coloured communities in South Africa.
She has had solo exhibitions at leading local galleries like Everard Read and has enjoyed residencies at institutions ranging from the Bag Factory in Johannesburg to Eastside Projects in Birmingham (UK). She continued to design 1million units of a R5 coin for South Africa depicting the long serpentine lines of the first democratic voting lines in 1994. Most recently she has been seen in a different role – as interviewer with her fellow artists for DW television show Afrimaxx.
Whether you’re listening to her perform or reading her poems as texts, you’re sure to find Koleka Putuma a powerful presence – challenging, consoling, healing, provoking. Her first volume of poetry, Collective Amnesia, was published by Uhlanga Press in 2017; it has since spurred creative responses by numerous artists and activists. This was followed by the self-published collection Hullo, Bu-Bye, Koko, Come in (2021). As the latter title suggests through its allusion to music icon Brenda Fassie, Putuma’s sense of her craft and role as a poet is informed by the wide-ranging legacy of various South African wordsmiths, from stage divas to literary greats, who have come before her.
Mam’ Gcina Mhlope once said, “I tell stories to wake up stories in other people”. I feel blessed and lucky to live a life that is committed to stories, dreaming them, creating them, sharing them, and consuming them. I am honoured to be recognised in this way and to form part of a long tradition of storytellers who have also woken up stories in me. I use poetry and theatre to grapple with memory, archives, history, documentation, performance, and practices/processes of making. I engage stories as a way to fill in the gaps … to question what is memorialised (through textbooks, curricula, institutions etc) and how that informs my being in the world.
In addition to performing her own work on stage, Putuma collaborates with other theatre makers. She wrote and directed Mbuzeni, an award-winning play that has struck a chord with teenage audiences both locally and internationally. Through her company, Manyano Media, and initiatives such as the Black Girl Live mentorship scheme, she works across various media (not only publishing and theatre but also film, television and advertising) to support black, queer, women storytellers.
They officially became “Theatre Duo” some 7 years ago, but Billy Langa and Mahlatsi Mokgonyana have been co-creators since they met at the Market Theatre Laboratory.
Their landmark collaboration is Tswalo, with Langa as writer-performer and Mokgonyana as director-dramaturg. Among other accolades, the play won a Cape Town Fringe for Best Directing and Performance, a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in 2018 and a Naledi Theatre Award in 2020. It has toured widely in South Africa and Europe, and the text of this “epic performance poem”, in English and Sepedi, has been published in two editions (by Junkets Press and iwalewabooks)
Prior to this, however, Langa and Mokgonyana had already produced critically acclaimed works like Just Antigone (2016), a version of Sophocles’ ancient tragedy. Theatre Duo is known for the creative adaptation and appropriation of canonical plays, and for mentoring young actors who are launching their professional careers; following a similar model, they co-directed the Kwasha! Theatre Company in a celebrated production of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinocerous.
What all these pieces have in common is an exquisite weaving-together of the physical and verbal elements of theatre practice. The intricate combination of movement and poetry that has become part of Theatre Duo’s signature style also invites audiences into the process, encouraging participation in a shared project of storytelling, listening and witnessing.
Commenting on the alchemy of their partnership, Langa and Mokgonyana offer this insight into the collaborative approach:
Collaborating is about co-elaborating … you work to further clarify ideas and processes. We also find value in the concept of duality – left and right will always balance. We don’t remain in our own spaces; what would be the point? Resistance to innovation is not something we subscribe to – if you are resistant, your work becomes monotonous.
Over the past decade, Bloemfontein-born Thami Majela has danced his way around the world, developing a distinctive repertoire that fuses classical ballet, contemporary dance and various African dance styles.
Early in his career, Majela had the opportunity of working with prominent South African dance practitioners like Dada Masilo and P.J. Sabbagha. In 2015, he was selected by Pro Helvetia for a research residency in Switzerland, where he created the duet Interim with Margarita Kennedy. Majela’s first solo piece, A Last One in Colour, developed into an international collaboration with dancer-choreographer Manao Shimokawa and filmmaker Axel Stasny. This spurred Majela into various short film projects: Sub Zero, Layered Waves, Each Passing Minute, iNxeba and Lilith, Lucifer and Eve.
Undeterred by Covid, Majela has continued to perform on various platforms over the last three years. He created The Last Supper for UJ Arts & Culture’s Pandemic Project, and his SPACTRAL (first featured at the Centre for the Less Good Idea) was part of the Virtual National Arts Festival in 2020. He has become a firm National Arts Festival favourite during the subsequent return to live performance, presenting Mommy Mommy in 2021 and POP (with Matthieu Nieto) in 2022. Majela also features regularly at the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience.
Majela situates his most recent work, like POP, within the context of the struggles of queer communities in South Africa and beyond:
Most of my subject matter is “heavy”, especially pieces such as Mommy Mommy. I engage with real issues that reflect on the situation of our LGBTQIA+ communities, which go through a lot of turmoil. Lightness is necessary, it is needed, but we forget that the “clown” has emotions.
Having studied dance at Tshwane University of Technology and P.A.R.T.S (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Belgium, Majela is deeply committed to arts education. In addition to his choreographic and performance work, he has taught young dancers at studios around South Africa.
Msaki took South Africa by storm in 2019 when she featured on Prince Kaybee’s smash hit “Fetch Your Life” – a song that would prove inspirational and sustaining to many people during the difficult years that followed (the music video for “Fetch Your Life” has racked up 10 million views on YouTube). In the same year, Msaki teamed up with DJ Black Coffee on “Wish You Were Here”, one of the tracks on the Grammy-winning album Subconsciously.
She has had a long history with the National Arts Festival, participating in the Children’s Festival from a young age to eventually bringing her own independent productions to the Fringe initiating her music career. She participated in the Dakawa Jazz Stage as Msaki & The Golden Circle and was awarded two Gold Standard Bank Ovation Awards. She has also curated multidisciplinary events, performances, and workshops at the Black Power Station.
This year Msaki returns to a town with which she has much personal history. For the Festival 2023 programme, she presents a series of works across disciplines:
- Visit Atherstone Gallery for her exhibition Del’ukufa open throughout the Festival
- She offers an Ngoma Technology Workshop at the Black Power Station on Friday 23 June
- She performs Ndiyozilanda to an intimate audience on Saturday 24 June and 2 July;
- In the Cathedral, as part of Spirit Fest, she presents the musical performance Bawo Khusela including a 23 piece choir, uHadi ensemble and a String Quartet.
Embo Time Travel Experiment, at the Guy Butler Auditorium is her largest musical performance at the Festival which also encompasses aspects of the work she presents across the Festival, she presents two shows on Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July.
Having pursued a musical journey from Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal to New York City and back again, Linda Sikhakane’s compositions and performances reflect a global jazz outlook that is firmly rooted in the local. His early mentors included Brian Thusi and Nduduzo Makhathini in South Africa and Billy Harper, Reggie Workman, David Schnitter and Charles Tolliver in the United States.
Sikhakhane completed his undergraduate degree at the New School in New York after winning the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship. He is currently enrolled for a Master’s degree at the Norwegian Academy of Music. But this saxophonist extraordinaire’s creative output has not been limited to his studies – he cut his teeth through long hours in the recording studio and on stage, working with a host of musical artists ranging from the late Sibongile Khumalo to Thandiswa Mazwai and from Feya Faku to Marcus Wyatt.
On his debut album Two Sides, One Mirror (2017), Sikhakhane brought together a band of fellow musical mavericks from the improvised jazz scene to produce songs of deep spiritual yearning – a mood and style that continued into his second album, An Open Dialogue (2020), which was recorded live in New York in the same year that Apple Music named him Artist of the Month for November. An Open Dialogue was also nominated for Best Jazz Album at the South African Music Awards.
Sikhakhane’s third album, Isambulo, was released earlier this year. It has been described as “a fluid and deep exploration of jazz, seamlessly blended with tradition” – and, indeed, he is committed both to exploring and extending South Africa’s amazing jazz heritage. As he reminds us, this is best achieved through collaboration:
History through sound is better expressed by a community than an individual, and Standard Bank has always been a pillar for our community of creatives.