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The Norval Foundation is pleased to present ‘GROOT GAT’, an exhibition dedicated to the works of South African artist Lady Skollie, the winner of the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art. The exhibition opens on the 22nd of May 2024, and will run until the 15th of September 2024.

Lady Skollie, SOMETHING SWEET, SOMEHING SOUR, 2024. Mixed media on paper. Courtesy of Everard Read.

Curated by Tayla Hollamby and Standard Bank Gallery, ‘GROOT GAT’ exhibition showcases Lady Skollie’s exploration of the complex histories of the San, Khoi, and Griqua. With a focus on themes of identity and the challenges of reclaiming the Cape coloured community’s lost history. Through her artistic persona, she fearlessly challenges notions of identity, sexuality, dynamics within the South African landscape. Commenting on her pseudonym, Lady Skollie shares that, “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.”

‘GROOT GAT’ marks the third exhibition commemorating Lady Skollie’s win of the esteemed Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2022. Established in 1981, this annual prize honours exceptional and emerging artists across a spectrum of disciplines including visual art, dance, jazz, music, theatre, and poetry. Previous winners of the visual art prize have included William Kentridge, Berni Searle, Jane Alexander and Blessing Ngobeni.

Born in 1987 in Cape Town, South Africa, as Laura Windvogel, Lady Skollie grew up amidst the complexities of the new South Africa, where she experienced the gaps within her heritage first-hand as a Coloured woman growing up in Coloured community in Cape Town. In her homecoming exhibition, ‘GROOT GAT’, Lady Skollie honours her San, Khoi, and Griqua heritage by creating a fantasy world that’s free of colonial influence filled with bold and vibrant cave drawings untouched by time and vandalism.

The exhibition’s title not only refers to Boesman’s Gat, a freshwater cave in Kimberley, but also addresses the significant historical gap within the Cape Coloured communities. This cave holds a profound symbolism, representing the gaps caused by colonialism in the shared history of the community. Originally a sacred space for indigenous people, it was utilized for fishing and rituals. However, with colonial seizure, its original purpose was lost, highlighting the impact of colonialism on indigenous cultures and traditions.

In Lady Skollies’ works, this cave takes on a new and profound symbolism, as the artist explores concepts related to coloured identity and culture within the context of a post-apartheid South Africa.

“’GROOT GAT’ pivots around the question: how do you define yourself when you are defined by a sense of not knowing by large gaps in your history and ritual? With this third version of the exhibition #SBYA2022, Lady Skollie brings it home to the root; Cape Town. We have emerged from the dark dreaded ‘GROOT GAT’ and come out the other side triumphant. The giant cave paintings of Skollie finally come home after 5 years of not exhibiting in Cape Town”, says Lady Skollie.

The exhibition will feature 23 works from the artist, including four new works. Lady Skollie’s works cleverly use a repetition of colour and pattern to link to the ancient Khoi, San and Griqua practices which involves the repetition of dances and rituals that allows the individual to connect with nature and the spiritual realm. Within her works, the artist often also pays homage to African artists, poets and activists, drawing inspiration from figures who have come before her.

Lady Skollie’s work boldly confronts viewers with profound questions about identity, belonging, and the often overlooked aspects of history. Rather than shying away from these challenging questions, her work encourages viewers to confront the uncomfortable and the unknown. Through her works, she encourages deep reflection on one’s roots, aspirations, and the ways in which they wish to define themselves in the world. By engaging with Lady Skollie’s works, viewers are prompted to delve into these complex issues and consider their own place within the broader narrative of society.

Lady Skollie, ‘GROOT GAT’ is curated by Tayla Hollamby with support from Standard Bank and will be available to view in Gallery 9 at Norval Foundation, from the 22nd of May 2024 to the 15th of September 2024. For more information, please visit the Norval Foundation.

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