White ribbons, coloured Piéta and ‘first’ performance – Artist Lady Skollie talks ‘Fire with Fire’

Visual artist Laura Windvogel, better known as Lady Skollie, is fast becoming a household name across international creative circles. This past weekend at the FNB Joburg Art Fair, Lady Skollie wowed Johannesburg with her new body of work, Fire with Fire, and presented audiences with her “first” performance.

Fire with Fire engages traditional Khoisan storytelling techniques and brings a powerful and energetic perspective on how we deal with pain, struggle and trauma.

True to what has become characteristic of her work, Fire with Fire is somehow both unsettling and tongue in cheek. We chat to Lady Skollie about her performance, the Fire with Fire theme, and the collection’s unapologetic political undertone.

The tale of Apollo and Daphne: Sisters burning Laurel wreaths for catharsis, 2017

Your body of work is titled Fire with Fire. Please tell us a bit about this theme.
The way victims are commemorated has always baffled me. The practice of lighting candles, the ‘minute of silence’ conundrum. I think that Fire with Fire was a request to burn everything instead of watching a flame slowly descend into nothingness.

Where did the inspiration for this particular body of work come from?
My inspiration came from the state of women in this country. In the world.

This was your first performance. What was the experience like?
Everything I do has an element of performance to it. I find the documented practice of storytelling in Khoisan history enticing. Stories for social change, for awareness, for humour and most importantly for legacy. I guess this was just the first time I called it a performance.

You used white ribbons as a key part of your performance. What do these mean to you and how do they relate to the body of work?
Ribbons like those are sold at the entrance of malls, sidewalks, shops as a way of commemorating different things, creating awareness. Specifically the white ribbon is for reminding us of violence against women and children. I brought hundreds to the performance and incorporated them into the show to highlight their redundancy in the fight against anything.

Your piece An ode to Ellen and Abie: The Pieta of Colouredness alludes to Ellen Pakkies and her son, Abie. Tell us about these two characters and why you chose to depict them.
Ellen Pakkies is a coloured woman from Dover Court, Lavender Hill. In 2008, after years of abuse from her tik addicted son, Abie, she finally disassociated and strangled him in his sleep with a rope. In the context of Fire with Fire, I depicted her as a Madonna in a coloured Piéta, cradling her dead son. She symbolises the effect of the supposed cure. Maybe the cure lies in destroying the thing that is trying to destroy you.

Octavia and Cleo: Found with heads buried in sand so unfortunately, they can’t see you all begging for forgiveness, 2017
An Ode to Ellen and Abie: The Pietà of Colouredness, 2017
Octavia and Cleo: Found with heads buried in sand so unfortunately, they can’t see you all begging for forgiveness, 2017
JUMP: Escaping from the Burning Tower, 2017

Images courtesy of Tyburn Gallery

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