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Laura Windvogel aka Lady Skollie is gorgeous and she knows it. Not in an arrogant way, but in a very self-assured and confident way. She commands the eyes of everyone in the room. ‘I’ve never wanted to be anything else except the centre of attention,’ she grins.

Lady Skollie is getting ready for first UK solo exhibition ‘Lust Politics’ at the Tyburn Gallery. Hidden away behind Selfridges and London’s hustle and bustle, it’s a prime location for contemporary African art lovers.

She is painting a mural for the upcoming exhibition, an image which, at its early stages, looked like an orange Hindu deity/woman octopus with her legs spread wide open.

© Batandwa Alperstein

‘Saving the best for last?’ I ask, my eyes roaming over the white space between the woman’s legs

‘I’m going to put a lot of bananas there!’ – she replies excitedly, ‘like, a shit load of bananas.’

Lady Skollie was born and educated in Cape Town. Her work has been exhibited widely across South Africa, with a number of special projects at the Michael Stevenson Gallery and the Association for Visual Arts.

Using ink, watercolour and crayon, she creates playful sexual paintings, filled with bright colours, symbolic fruit, and all the joy and darkness of the erotic. Her work is simultaneously bold and vulnerable, expressing the duality of human sexuality.

© Anthea Pokroy

We interrupted her mural painting to chat pussy and politics:

Hi hi, would you like me to call you Laura or Lady Skollie?

You can call me Laura (she says with a smile)

The alias Lady Skollie:  Who is she? Where did she come from?

I grew up with a mother who I think wanted me to be a boy! So I had very short hair, I always wore flannels, and then when I got a little bit older I went through extreme femininity. So it was a switch up and question of ‘how do I act now?’ I think gender tension like that is quite interesting especially in the case of women because we underestimate how it could mess with our minds.

One or the other.

A photo posted by Lady Skollie (@ladyskollie) on

I love it when people ask  ‘Who is Lady Skollie?’ because I always feel like she’s that dirty aunt that you have, or that dirty friend that always says way too much. That’s how she started out, but Lady Skollie for me was always an interplay between my masculine and feminine energies especially since I was a child.

What does ‘skollie’ mean?

‘Skollie’ is like a local term for a thuggish person or person of suspicion. Especially a ‘coloured’ person. Now I don’t mean ‘coloured’ as in the universal term, I mean it in relation to South Africa which refers to the descendants of Khoisan. ‘Coloureds’ in South Africa are deemed to be suspicious, small-time crooks.

⚠️New Mugshots by @ankeloots⚠️

A photo posted by Lady Skollie (@ladyskollie) on

‘Skollie’ was a word that was used to oppress us a lot like ‘Oh check that skollie there, you know? Hold your bag’. Yet now it is very fashionable to be a gangster, now everyone wants to wear a pair of airmax especially in South Africa, you know? So for me it was very interesting to see these words that were used to oppress us, now suddenly everyone wants to be a skollie!

Let’s talk about sex – why do you think African women are so afraid to express their sexuality and eroticism?

Because we have never been allowed to. We have the media and things making us feel like we are liberated when we are not. In South Africa people don’t talk about sex. We have friends who get STDs and we don’t ask our men, we don’t ask questions you know?

And it is a very weird thing where we pretend that we are so liberated and we can’t even talk about important things like reproductive health or relationship dynamics that are dangerous and toxic.

Ironically, I don’t like bananas or paw paws!

When I started doing this whole Lady Skollie thing, I really wanted to be a voice. I wanted to be the brash person who said the things that you were thinking to let you understand that it is okay to think this way.

Seeing shortcuts in the phallic landscape, 2016,

Your work reminds me of Georgia’ O Keefe

Oh yeah, I love that. I always knew I didn’t want to be a specific type of artist. In South Africa the art world is very Eurocentric, the fine art world: you are either this kind of artist or you are not an artist at all!

A lot of galleries used to judge me for being on social media. I just felt it was so weird I had to adhere to these predominantly white rules about what fine art is in an African country.

What influences your art?

My mother is addicted to fruit. So much so, that she got diabetes. When we were children and our father would go on business trips, he would leave money and she would spend all of the money the first day, just on fruit! In the first day! So , like five days later I’d be like ‘Mum I’m hungry’ and she would tell me to go eat half a watermelon.

Paw Paw print, 2016

The sexual aspect was very specific for me because even as a child, I didn’t understand the feelings were sexually related. My mother during winter, she would be so sad and be unhinged making lists of the fruits she was going to eat once they came back into season. It was this weird obsessive thing. And when we were little, when we ate all this fruit.

We would take our clothes off so we were just in our panties, and then we would sit and EAT. Food is going all over me, my face, my skin… it was like a ritual. That simulation from fruit to sex, that was where it stemmed from.

Ironically, I don’t like bananas or paw paws!

Which artists inspire you?

The artists that inspire me, visually you wouldn’t think that they do because we are not the same at all. But I love Athi-Patra Ruga, he is incredible. He is probably one of the most successful living black artists out of South Africa. And Mary Sibande.

For me, those are people who create their own realities, and I love that. I love being able to immerse yourself  in your work so much that you create a world that didn’t exist before. Mary Sibande and Athi really do that for me.

Pussy Print III, 2016

It is a very daunting and all-consuming task to be a woman

Tell us about your new body of works, what is ‘Lust Politics’?

In South Africa, being a woman is a political statement. There is a lot of things happening in which women are not protected and it frustrates me and it makes me angry and it makes me scared for my friends, for my sister, and my family.

I mean, one in every four women has experienced sexual violence. Turning a blind eye is allowing things to spiral. I am very vocal about it so I often get invited by companies and organisations of rape survivors for example, to come and speak.

They assume I am a victim or survivor because I am that angry about it. So this is what I mean, in South Africa people are not angry and only care when it happens to them.

On the subject of consent 'Don't worry about it; around here RED MEANS GO!', 2016,

So I think that silence and that weird denial about what is actually happening has contributed to my anger so I wanted to show that as women we have all these politics that we adhere to, even when we are with men, having to forgive them over again for their transgressions. Yet it is never expected of them.

So Lust Politics is about being a woman within relationships, within sex, within everything, having to be a multi-tasker and adhere to political rules and having someone else’s ego elevated rather than your own. It is a very daunting and all-consuming task to be a woman, especially in South Africa. …yoh!

So, what is next for Lady Skollie?

To be completely honest, I don’t want to answer the ‘what’s next’ question. This is what is happening right now, and everything has led up to this. I’m hard, fast, now. I don’t play to anybody’s rules. I am a rebellious person!

© Lady Skollie, courtesy of Tyburn Gallery

Lady Skollie, Lust Politics, Tyburn Gallery, London, 19 January – 4 March 2017