May 2022 | Mandelieu La Napoule | South of France
Makwande welcomes another young female and talented African artist - Lesego Seoketsa - to Mandelieu La Napoule, France, to be part of it's accelerator program.
Lesego will continue to explore her series titled "Amacici" which translates to earrings in isiZulu. This series of artworks are inspired by the practice of adornment and beautifying oneself, with jewelry, fashion, and make-up. Jewelry was forbidden in Lesego’s childhood because of her family's religious beliefs. Adornment and beautifying oneself is one of Lesego's repressed childhood desires, and as an adult, she begins to explore and redefine what adornment means. As a child living in the township, Lesego would see women with gold teeth, long and glamorous nails, and different color hairstyles.
Throughout history, modesty in women had always been encouraged, however, women were not allowed to define what constitutes the word "modesty". Often, women who were expressive in their dress were labeled and perceived in derogatory ways. The true narrative was that these women were free and independent in their expression of identity. Adornment is something that is closely linked to self-expression and identity. Make-up is often used for enhancement and to beautify oneself.
During her childhood, Lesego was taught that adornment and beautifying oneself display a lack of humility and modesty, which symbolizes a ‘sinful’ character. Although character cannot only be judged by appearance, how one adorns themselves is an expression and an indicator of their interests. It is a visual language. Identity is complex and nuanced, and adornment is used as one of the things to communicate or construct one's self-image.
During this residency, Lesego will draw inspiration from Western fashion designers, artists, and Southern African cultures. She will explore the themes of fantasy and surrealism through adornment. As a child, she would get lost in fantasy worlds where she could dress and be whoever she wanted to be. She currently draws inspiration from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, artist Salvador Dali, and is also inspired by the jewelry she saw as a child during traditional ceremonies in Xhosa and Tswana weddings, as well as jewelry worn in the townships.
Exploring adornment is not just about the aesthetical appeal but also symbolism from the inner fantasy world that Lesego continues to create. The symbolism through dress breeds the ability to communicate inner worlds and landscapes into the 3-dimensional realm we exist in.
Lesego combines the influences of fantasy and spirituality to express symbolic and whimsical pieces of adornment through paintings in the Amacici series.
It is liberating for Lesego to explore her repressed childhood desires and learn from them. In these artworks, she remembers the women in her childhood: neighbors, church members, nurses, teachers, mothers, and young fashionable women in her township. She has always observed how women express their beauty through adornment and how therapeutic and liberating these practices are. She has also observed how women leave beauty salons as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Lesego is learning how patriarchy produces misogynoir in religion and spirituality, where women are discouraged to express joy and freedom through adornment and beautifying traditions.
The Amacici series is also an alternate universe where Lesego allows her inner child to engage with the fantasy and abstraction of adornment and femininity.