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Nontsikelelo Veleko

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Name  Nontsikelelo Veleko

Nontsikelelo Veleko nontsikelelovelekohlonipigmentprintoncottonragpapereditionof102004jpg

South african artist nontsikelelo veleko in profile

Nontsikelelo 'Lolo' Veleko (born 19 August 1977) is a South African photographer most noted for her depiction of black identity, urbanisation and fashion in post-apartheid South Africa.


Nontsikelelo Veleko On the Street in Johannesburg Fans in a Flashbulb

Nontsikelelo veleko

Life and work

Nontsikelelo Veleko nontsikelelovelekocindyandnkulipigmentprintoncottonragpapereditionof102004jpg

Veleko was born on 19 August 1977 in Bodibe, North West (South African province). She grew up in Cape Town and attended Luhlaza High School in Khayelitsha. In 1995 she studied graphic design at the Cape Technikon. After moving to Johannesburg, she studied photography at the Market Theatre Photo Workshop(1999–2004), an organisation co-founded by David Goldblatt which aims to provide formal training to young photographers who would otherwise not have access to such resources.

Nontsikelelo Veleko Nontsikelelo Veleko and South African Fashion

In 2003, Veleko documented graffiti throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg, a series she titles The ones on top won't make it Stop! in her first solo exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. These photographs encapsulated the social and political atmosphere of post-apartheid South Africa. This same year, Veleko was nominated for the MTN New Contemporaries Arts Awards. This competition identifies four rising South African artists and selects a winner. Throughout the next couple of years, her work was showcased in various exhibitions throughout South Africa, Europe and Australia.

Nontsikelelo Veleko Don39t hate me because I39m gorgeous Design Indaba

In 2006, her photographs were part of the group exhibition, Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography, at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. There, the bold and lively portraits depicting South Africa street style from her series Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder attracted a great deal of attention, shifting previous perceptions of Africa as a whole on an international scale. Veleko explains that she looks at fashion “and how it creates identity, because fashion plays with identity”. In regards to the title of the series, she states: “I thought the way I see beauty and the way I perceive beauty might be different to someone else next to me...So the project is called Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder, because for me they are beautiful.” Alongside this, Veleko has also implemented clothing ‘to deliberately challenge assumptions of identity based on appearances and historical background’. Such is evident in her more personal project from 2002, www.notblackenough.lolo, which depicted an exploration of mixed cultural and racial identity through different costumes of role play.

Nontsikelelo Veleko June 2011 BA Hons FdA Photography Page 2

In 2006, Veleko’s work was also exhibited in Personae & Scenarios-the new African photography at the Brancolini Grimaldi Arte Contemporanea in Rome, Italy. That same year, her photographs were displayed in the exhibition titled Olvida Quien Soy- Erase Me from Who I Am at the Centro Atlantico de Arte Mordeno in Las Palmas, Canary Islands. In 2007, Veleko's work and reputation reached a larger international audience with her work being exhibited throughout Southern Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America. She has also been a part of shows such as 7th Recontres Africaines de la Photographie exhibition. During this year, she also received a two-month residency with the International Photographic Research Network (IPRN) in the UK where she explored the notions of work, identity and clothes.

Nontsikelelo Veleko httpsiytimgcomvigFHE7aii4PMhqdefaultjpg

In 2008, Veleko was the second photographer to be awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art for her travelling exhibition Wonderland. This focuses on familiar aspects of her previous work such as fashionable street-goers, primarily younger adults, as well as graffiti and personal spaces. Through exploration of such subjects Veleko continues to delve deeper and defy clichés of outdated perceptions of South Africans, and Africans in a larger context, that have been largely focused on the notions of fashion and the way of life. Wonderland not only displays the unique personalities of eclectically dressed urbanites but also captures the cosmopolitan nature of cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Veleko's work presents a strong statement of a younger generation that is loud, self-expressive and daring; a collection of youth she strongly relates to. Such sentiments are evident in the photographs resulting from what she considers to be a 'collaborative process'. The portraits are taken after being granted permission from the subjects. She gives copies of the photos to their rightful owners and invites them to the exhibition openings. For the ongoing series of graffiti shots The ones on top won't make it Stop, Veleko met the graffiti artists and continued to follow the progress of those whose style she favoured.

Veleko is currently living and working in France. She was also a project manager/co-coordinator at the Market Photo Workshop, where she was previously a student.


In their discussion of her photography, critics have said "It was a shock- an awakening shock- to come upon the bursting contemporary colours worn by the fashion-struck people portrayed by Nontsikelelo "Lolo" Veleko on the streets of Johannesburg". Others have related the fashion-savvy subjects of Veleko's street portraits to the widely recognisable image of 'hipsters' "dressed in electric, Kool-Aid colours [whose] incorrigible chic and appropriations of Western icons...proclaim them heirs to Ke dandified Bamakois bourgeoisie". Leslie Camhi of The Village Voice (2006) further noted:

If independence has a style, this is it- vivid, highly individualised, and a touch defiant. These images are antidotes to the prevailing view of the ‘dark continent’ as a place of entropy and despair; these are people in charge of at least their own sartorial destiny.


  • Maart, B; Lemon, T. J. Introduction by David Goldblatt. 2002. SHARP: The Market Photography Workshop. The Market Photography Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • The Fatherhood Project: 2003–2004. Child, Youth and Family Development (CYFD), Human Sciences Research Council, HSRC Press, Pretoria, South Africa, 2004.
  • Perryer, S (ed). 2004. 10 Years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa. Bell Roberts Publishing in association with Struik Publishing, Cape Town, South Africa. ISBN 1868729877
  • Comely, R; Hallett, G; Hallett; Neo, N (eds). 2006. Woman by Woman: 50 Years of Women’s Photography in South Africa. Wits University Press, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Catalogues

  • Smith, Kathryn 2003. MTN New Contemporaries. MTN, Johannesburg.
  • Damsbo, Mads 2004. Unsettled: 8 South African Photographers, The National Museum of Photography, The Royal Library, Copenhagen.
  • Waselchuk, Lori 2004. Is everybody comfortable.
  • Enwezor, Okwui 2006. Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography. International Center of Photography, New York.
  • Lehtonen, Kimmo (ed). 2007. IPRN Changing Faces #3. Van Wyk, Gary (ed). 2004. A Decade of Democracy: Witnessing South Africa. Sondela, Boston.
  • Vergon, Henri 2007. Two Years of Afronova. Afronova, Johannesburg.
  • Solo exhibitions

  • 2002–2003 The Ones on Top Won't Make It Stop!, The Kuppel, Basel, Switzerland, 2002; Women's Arts Festival, Johannesburg Art Gallery and Market Theatre Galleries, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2003
  • 2007 SCREAM! MUTE! SCREAM!, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 2008-9 Wonderland, Standard Bank Young Artist Award, national travelling exhibition, including National Arts Festival Grahamstown, Grahamstown; Durban Art Gallery, Durban; Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Group exhibition

  • 2011 Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2011.
  • References

    Nontsikelelo Veleko Wikipedia

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