As an artist LegakwanaLeo Makgekgenene expands and broadens the mediums they work with, reminding viewers that art has the capacity to be timeless, while grounded in recognition of varying histories as well as looking forward to new imaginings. The realms of physical and digital overlap and intersect in a vibrant culmination of photography, photo-manipulation, live video, animation, sculpture, costume making and integrated sound pieces. Their work aims to re-materialize the metaphorical spaces where taught ideologies and memories are held, recognising how narratives, conceptualisations and entrenched understandings play a role in shaping African Contemporaneity. In this way, their practice catalyses a challenging of experiential environments, and furthermore how we engage with them.
As the curator of Ke Namile, which currently forms one of the curatorial collaborations at Eclectica Contemporary until the end of September, their practice has extended to facilitation of art spaces both physically, in the gallery, and virtually through an online curation of the exhibition. Ke Namile features the work of Malwande Mthethwa, Shana-Lee Ziervogel, Elijah Ndoumbé, Lamb of Lemila, Ranji Mangcu and Rona and confronts gender binarism and exclusionary feminism.
On the process of curating the exhibition Ke Namile, Makgekgenene describes that “ it was beautiful, honestly. Organic. I would say that the central idea [of the exhibition] was not even an idea, just a sentiment- one that I know is shared by many people around me. The artists I invited into the space are all artists that I’ve worked with, alongside or admired from a relatively short distance. What has been significant for me, is the opportunity to get intimate with their work as well as becoming better acquainted with the makers themselves (suddenly having hi-res copies of what are now some of my favourite works and being able to zoom in, look and feel at my leisure was definitely the highlight of this for me).” Makgekgenene reflects that “I am proud of the collective resourcefulness, adaptability, resilience and overall yesness of QPOC- I’m proud of the efforts we make to create and hold space for ourselves and one another”.
When it comes to making work, support is an integral part of their work – the support of loved ones, of storytelling and the support of releasing into the process of creating instinctively. Their sewing machine and drawing tablet are also crucial, allowing for the creation of illusions and illustrations. When asked about important influences in their practice, Makgekgenene explains “because (dis-/re-) illusion is centred in my practice, the discourse surrounding it becomes the salient influential aspect. The work is inspired by and borrows aspects from Negritude, Fallism, Afrofuturism, Black existentialism, Afrosurrealism, Black radical feminism, ideas of Black interiority & secrecy, the ‘Ambivalent (Grotesque)’, the list is long. However, more important than the discourse, are the people and spaces that allow me to continue that discourse in relation to (shared) experiences and spaces.
Makgekgenene’s work is embedded with allegorical storytelling, looking to idioms and satire to air out the psychological remnants of personal, social and political disillusionment. The act of storytelling is so integral that Makgekgenene goes so far as to say “all my work is prefaced by Bo Mmaruri, followed by an ‘idiomatic’ title. I would say then, that the images and objects thereafter are only ‘supporting documents’.” So images exist as documentation of their praxis, but remain an avenue of exploration, rather than the entirety. This is exemplified in their Untitled Triptych – The unit: Motlhokomedi, badisa le moitshepi. The triptych, a digital collage, is an inquisition into the three beings that self exists as. Alongside their sensorial/spiritual guides, they all exist in parallel sensory planes, and rely on the discretion of their ‘non-existence’ to freely (re)narrate pivotal existential reflections.
Of the interplay between concept and imagery in their practice, Makgekgenene explains that “I imagine [the works] as not too dissimilar to the coloured pencil illustrations that would be alongside the comprehension text in our Setswana textbooks. Setswana is an oral culture, a lot of our colloquialisms are similes and metaphors, the language becomes increasingly and poetically vague in it’s expression the better one knows it. This paradox has always been of interest to me”. They point out that language and particularly the ones they speak are “context markers and describing tools – like images. Language is a barrier or a bridge like any other”. An expanding of language, in allegory, engagement and play, is prominent in all the works. They explain that “though language has the ability to limit the imagination, I think we are only limited by the predetermined terms of engagement. I choose to interact with it aqueously”.
LegakwanaLeo Makgekgenene’s work is an offering of exploration, extending and reaching beyond known realms. They challenge, interrogate, re-illustrate and prompt re/dis-illusion. As an artist exploring new working potentials in our ever changing world, the works offer a guide into alternative imagining and radical creativity.