African Rising Star, Contemporary artist Giggs Kgole says his Win of the Young Masters Award is not only a win for Kgole, but a win for all Africans and youngsters who aspire for greatness and want to have their voice heard.
You are everywhere now! Do you mind speaking a little bit about your
background and how you came to be an artist?
G.K: I am a super ambitious, dyslexic young man from Limpopo, South Africa, planning on taking on the world one masterpiece at a time. I was born in 1997 in a township called Tembisa in South Africa, thereafter I was raised by my grandmother in our village home in Kutupu, Limpopo where my mother and father grew up. My grandmother raised me including my 2 older siblings along with my 14 other cousins in our home in our village. I come from very humble beginnings as my father was the breadwinner who worked in a coal power station in the city. Due to lack of money and food, farming was the best way for my family’s survival, when we traveled to our small patch of farmland out in the fields we used to cross a river of which we collected our drinking water from. That river had large amounts of clay of which I collected to make clay toys to play with at the end of the day when they had dried in the sun. Little did I not know I was creating art, as every time we crossed that river I had the sudden urge to keep making more and more figures and toys. I can say I was born an artist and only realized what I was one when I was 10 years old in primary school where I took my first official art class. My teacher saw the potential I had and urged me to keep nurturing it, she taught me new mediums and how art can create conversations. 6 years later when I was 16 in high school on a full scholarship, I learned about the global art world and I told my art teacher that I’m going to be my generation’s and one of Africa’s greatest visual artist. She saw the determination in my eyes knew that I wanted nothing more than to accomplish this and knew I needed her to equip me with what I needed to pursue this field. 6 months after I completed high school in 2016 and just turned 19 years old I sold my first professional series of works to a prestigious hotel in Cape Town called Belmond Mount Nelson hotel, a few months after that I exhibited my first show in a museum exhibition. I was selected at 19 years old as the top 100 Sasol New Signature finalists and being the youngest finalist that year that sparked eyes of the art world in South Africa and a few galleries were now willing to listen to me and gave me an opportunity to show my work. I left South Africa in 2017 to pursue my international career at 20 years old and complete my degree in Rome Italy as I am on full scholarship for an Art History Degree, as soon as I landed in Italy on the 19th of August 2017 I knew I had to work my soul of and the rest is history.
You recently won the Young Masters Art Prize in London, How do you feel about this recognition?
G.K: I am very honoured and proud as this is another big milestone of which I know is leading me into the next stage of my career and it is building on the journey I started as a village boy collecting clay from the river 18 years ago. This win is not only a win for Kgole, but a win for all Africans and youngsters who aspire for greatness and want to have their voice heard. In the beginning, when I was a 19-year-old starting off in South Africa my journey was always filled with doubt and consistent questioning of if, it’s possible, I never knew of anyone from my village or young black South African boy who wanted to take on the international art scene at 20 years old and succeed. Then my dad told me that, “other kids will never know one too if you don’t become him and inspire them to be greater.” This was a man who never understood why I wanted to become an artist because our African fathers were never exposed to alternative careers and paths, however, when he saw the sparkle I had in my eyes when I created masterpieces and exhibited them, he saw my ancestors flow through me and knew I found my purpose. Winning this award just means the world will needs to watch for Kgole and his ancestors who are coming for the contemporary art world.
What advice do you have for young aspiring artists in Limpopo and across the African continent?
G.K: It is possible, despite all odds or the feeling that the world is against you, it’s possible. In my own home country, I was told I was black, too young, naive and uneducated. I didn’t let these responses stop me from pursuing what my soul desired. My response to these people was through my actions and success, I’m proud to be Black, my youth is my currency, my silence isn’t naivetés, I read and listened to what they said and educated myself. When you find something you love and are passionate about, work hard and smart to obtain it and most importantly surround yourself with people who will bring you value and will uplift you. Nothing is impossible and don’t let anyone project their fears upon you.
All Your works appear to tell a captivating story. How did that happen?
G.K: I have my ancestor’s infinite history, hopes, dreams, pain, love, and soul flowing through me, as the last born, I carry my family’s name and future. My village and many people all over the world count on my success and with that, I create my masterpieces which tell Untold African Stories. My existence is rooted in power and people are captivated because, despite all odds against me, I came out my village to be seen and one of the greatest, people are captivated because they are inspired by my will not to give up and empowered by the soul I leave in every masterpiece I create. At such a young age, I’ve been blessed to see all the walks of life South Africa has to offer from the extremely poor to absolute Rich, I have earned the opportunity to see how the world operates and how Africa and its diaspora is treated. People are captivated because despite where they come from when they see a Kgole masterpiece, they see a part of their soul. Whether they are ready to engage with it or not, it is entirely up to them.
How important is African Artist in telling the African story?
G.K: Very importantly, Africa is large and has a large variety of cultures, history, and stories to offer the world, but most importantly the next generation of Africans who are born in this globalized world we now live in. African artists are important as we preserve and write new histories that need to share and inspire our people to be proud of where they come from and who they are.
You count on artist William Kenteridge as one of your mentors. How has he affected your work?
G.K: William has taught me what it takes to run a studio and has set a benchmark of which myself and other artists in my generation will set another for the next younger or not born yet South African Artists to raise.
Do you act as a mentor yourself to any young artists back home?
G.K: Yes, I mentor a hand full of young people, some artists and some not and from different parts of the world. I believe that I learn a lot from them as much as they learn from me. What we are doing is building a community and a family that are there to help each other through life. Most of us come from families that don’t know what art is and why it is important to us, lack of support can be very disheartening; however, together we can grow and teach our families, be inspired and push each other to be our absolute best versions.
You have travelled quite alot! which destination gives you the best working inspiration?
G.K: I absolutely love working in the South of France and have enjoyed working in my studio there for 6 months in 2019. I enjoyed the French culture, the warm summer light, and beautiful sunsets and raises which inspired many like Picasso and Monet, who lived where my studio was situated many years back. I definitely see myself returning to that part of the world in the coming years to get away from the world a bit and produce for my coming shows.
You are making an international name for yourself at a very young age, where do you see yourself in 20 years from now?
G.K: I see myself as being one of the top 10 most significant artists of the time and with the knowledge, power, and influence I would have built up, I will be found back in my village building or have built a self-sustaining Art Centre in the community for kids in the neighbouring villages and towns to come learn how to create, destroy and rebuild so they can make use these creative skills in other aspects of their lives. I believe creativity from a very young age is important in children developed. I, on the other hand, hope to be working directly from my studio, which will be in my village where I will be creating my exhibition and museum works from where I grew up. My return will be to enrich my homeland with my passion and the benefits and seeds I’ve planted over the years. I will only be 42 years old by then, so travelling to a lot of my international shows will still be on my agenda too.
How do you see younger artists making their way?
G.K: Through new media and technologies, younger artists will definitely find easier ways to create large scaled impactful projects and collaborate more. We young artists need to stand together and create important disruption which shines light to important issues and helps others through our talents. I find my voice through my masterpieces and my power of storytelling and inspiring others. Young artists need to bring meaning to eat and not fall under generic soulless productions.
What are you working on now?
G.K: I am currently working on a solo exhibition in Monaco 2020 during the Grand Prix and as well as a grand return solo exhibition in London in 2020. The journey and the unfolding of dates can easily be followed on my day to day documentation of life, creating art and setting up shows on my Instagram: @giggskgoleart