Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder – The Art of Lolo Veleko


Nontsikelelo “Lolo” Veleko is an acclaimed fine art photographer known for her depiction of South African street style. Her work strongly resembles Shoichi Aoki’s Fruits .

Veleko comments that

Concerning the Japanese influence – one day, one page, I saw one picture that stayed and tortured my mind since 1995. I tore the page kept it, protected it from water, fire and all the elements. I even traveled with it to Johannesburg. I do not know if this was Shoichi Aoki’s work but I loved the Japan I saw with that one image. It is of a ‘Lolita’ wearing a dark modern Victorian dress with a little handbag. [It evoked what] I had experienced in Cape Town [among] art students with no money for clothes in high school and at the Technikon, when they simply made their own”

The connections between Veloko’s work and Shoichi Aoki’s has generally been ignored by academics, who situate her photographs within the history of black portraiture and issues of identity and race. A classic example of the strong divisions that still exist between the so-called “Fine” and “Applied” Arts.

At the same time I can’t help but think that Veloko’s work wouldn’t be confined to the gallery if South African media was more accommodating of anything that’s outside the norm.

The idea of a South African publication like Fruits is not as far fetched, but it requires that South Africans change the way we think about our fashion and culture – looking at ourselves, instead of just trying to follow international trends. For now stop and take in these beautiful portraits.

Photo’s via Afronova Gallery.


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