Interview with Giggs Kgole

Oliver Pete, Ostudio Post, December 2, 2016

Giggs Kgole is a Limpopo born artist who through a scholarship he won through the Student Sponsorship Programme, studied at the prestigious ST John College in Houghton. Being the first person in his family to reach and pass matric, he was met with challenges that came with moving from Kempton Park to a prestigious private school.

ike a typical rural boy, Giggs spend most of his childhood creating his own toys using mud from the river, which helped shape and harness his artistic expression.

Having been mentored by William Kentridge, his first exhibition with Julie Miller Investment Art Institute showcased his for the first time his work, and how he incorporated being dyslexia and the challenges he faced having to operate in a “normal” learning environment. His pieces simply titled GUIDE TO MISGUIDED FACES on soaked paper (Afrikaans Bible pages), black and red markers, charcoal, and black paint medium. Other pieces he showcased DREAM KEEPERS SERIES, PERIODIC FOREST to highlight the plight of women in need of sanitary pads, DOES IT HURT, POETRY IN WIND, THE BOLD/ THE BRAVE, PERIOD-I-C TABLE, ANAGLYPH SERIES, TORN BUT NOT SCARED,

We met with Giggs at his workshop to get an understanding of the man behind the work.

Q: As a 19year old artist from Limpopo, what do you think your role is as an artist in the South African landscape i.e. Politics & social landscape?

-I feel, I have the responsibility to stay true to myself and tell my story through my experiences. Nowadays our people try to relate to stories in other places or countries. I could have chosen to do a piece on the Eiffel Tower but majority of people in the country would not relate. It’s a question of what one is giving back. It is about the story you are telling and how you depict it. It is about the journey. For instances, if I were to do an Eiffel tower piece I would have to show it in a way that it shows you my roots as an African. You have to stay true to who you are and where you come from.

Q: Tell me about your relationship with Julie Miller Investments Art Institute?

-I met Julie through a friend. He recommended me to her although at first she was hesitant because of my age. As time went she found something capturing about me and decided to take a chance. She looked at my work and she was amazed by my story as well as what I wanted in the future. She saw potential, then the opportunity of my lifetime followed and I grabbed it with both hands.

Q: Have you ever exhibited before?

-No, I had not had an exhibition before meeting Julie but I had a joint exhibition while in high school. It was a youth group exhibition with scholars aged 18-21 years, coming from across Johannesburg for their work to be exhibited. Prior to that, earlier in the year I had a solo exhibition with Julie Miller Investments Art Institute.

Q: One of your works is focused on the Woman’s month campaign. Tell me your view on that and how you came about the woman’s month campaign?

-My exhibition was originally going to take place during woman’s month in August but the date changed. My cousin (Martin Kgole) was running a sanitary pad campaign in Alexandra. I was inspired by the sanitary pad walk that took place in Alex and I wanted to do more, so I did research and discovered that a lot of girls in townships cannot afford pads therefore they skip school due to lack of pads. It is something that we don’t talk about and that’s where I came up with an idea to create awareness through my talent as this is an issue that affects our everyday woman and it needs to be solved. I believe as a country we have the resources to solve this matter therefore that’s what inspired me to do artworks.

Q: One of the ministers attended the event, Tell me about that?

-The Deputy Minister [Buti Manamela] was present through Kgabo’s connection as he happened to know The Deputy Minister. I met up with Kgabo’s, he saw some of my artworks prior to the exhibition. I told him that I needed exposure i.e. being known. Kgabo’s was inspired by what I have done. At a later stage I attended a two-hour woman’s month conference where I was invited by the Minister. I then had a talk with him about my exhibition happening in September, also gave him an invite. He was astonished by the works.

Q: What do you think about the risk our artists have when it comes to remaining objective in their artistic expressions and political influence?

-It depends on who the artist is because people are not brave enough to voice their opinions especially with regard to sensitive & serious issues that we face as a country. They are restricted due to fear which restricts their freedom of speech. Art is not a pretty thing. Not everyone will love your works and that is something all mature artists know. Gladly at my age I understand that it is not about pleasing people but about the message you want convey.

Q: What’s your take on Brett Murray art piece (The spear) and Ayanda Mabulu who depicted the president in a compromising position? Do you think there is a thin line between expression and provoking?

-I feel they were brave to do that and as a person I respect their courage to go ahead and do that. Without taking any sides, I agree it is a very thin line and they were both expressing how they felt about the president and they have right to express themselves like everyone else.

Q: Tell me about the scholarship to go study in Scotland and the hearts and calendar art piece?

-I got the opportunity to go to Scotland for the first time ever, as an exchange student when I was in grade 10. My first time on a plane and out of the country. It was a rich, wonderful & unforgettable experience. As a young boy from a village in Limpopo, arriving in a new place I had to set my mind and promise myself that I’ll stay true to my persona. I did exactly that. I love the whole experience. Till now I still have a great relationship with my exchange parent, we speak on a daily basis. I began to research Universities in Scotland and at that moment I realized that am not privileged and my parents cannot afford to pay for my fees. It hurt a lot but I told myself “There is no door you cannot open, look how far you’ve come. Don’t restrict yourself. The only restriction you have in life is your mindset.” When I got back to South Africa I researched more universities found in Scotland. I found the University of Stirling. Worked on getting better grades and I applied for a scholarship and University. I got my accepted to The University of Stirling in matric. Classes commenced in September 2016. This meant I had only 8 months to raise funds for tuition, transport, food and accommodation. January 2016, I had to raise 25,000 pound. In April, I attended open day. I Showcased my work to them and they offered me a partial scholarship covering accommodation. Then the towns people near Stirling raised 40% of funds to cover me until my final year. I never got to go study in Scotland but on that same month I had to start my classes, I was hosting my first exhibition with Julie Miller Investments Art Institute. Only then I saw God had a greater plan for me.

Q: What do you think of South Africans accepting art, and What do you think of the way your audience define your art?

 -You should not limit yourself in terms of target. My artwork is priced low so that my peers can afford it. Art is an investment therefore its best suited if everyone can afford it as its work of common experience, something people can relate to.

Q: Tell me about the art pieces that Mount Nelson Hotel bought from you?

-A guide to misguided faces came to me while I was an interning to raise funds to go to Scotland. I cycled to work every day and ran into different people each day. Using the same route to work and back, seeing the same faces yet not knowing who they are. I thought the faces were misguided. I got an idea to draw free memory images of ten people each day, for three days on an Afrikaans paper due to my dyslexia. Each day I would use a different medium and combine it with red paint and charcoal which symbolized the fire we used to do at home. It displayed common faces. Learning about who the frown, smile and all. Mount Nelson and Julie Miller bought 10 pieces out of 18 pieces and that was my first commercial sale.

Q: Looking at this painting you made at the age of 13, what was going through your head?

-The offer piece came about after I had a conversation with my mother about Lobola. I felt like Lobola was like buying your wife. She then explained to me that Umqombothi and the sacrificed cow, Live stork and hard cash are a symbol of gratitude. So, I decided that no matter the race or religion I will continue my tradition and pay Lobola for my bride.