Student Giggs Kgole Featured in The Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans List

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JCU Art History student and artist Giggs Kgole has recently been featured in The Mail & Guardian’s annual ‘200 Young South Africans’ list. Since its establishment in 2006, the ‘200 Young South Africans’ list aims at showcasing young leaders, and celebrating their work in categories such as Arts & Entertainment, Politics & Government and Sports. People between the ages of 18 and 35 are selected by the public, and in 2019, over 6000 nominations were submitted. The Daily Show host Trevor Noah and feminist writer Jen Thorpe, among others, were on the list in 2010.

JCU Student Giggs Kgole

JCU Student Giggs Kgole

Born in Tembisa and raised in Limpopo (South Africa), Giggs started making clay sculptures as a child. “Most children didn’t have toys to play with, so instead I created them from mud collected from the river. I taught myself how to create toys and abstract objects,” said Giggs, who discovered brushes and acrylic paints in school, and considers himself to be a self-taught artist. After graduating from high school, the prestigious St Johns College in Houghton (Johannesburg) for which he won a scholarship, Giggs was an intern for William Kentridge, a South African artist best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films.

“My works are an exposition of the interplay between the people living in rural Limpopo and the world which they inhabit. I tell vivid human stories about the experiences of people from Limpopo. My work tells tales of struggle, of abandonment, of promises broken and dreams deferred. They speak of resilience in the face of everyday injustice, of resistance through the simple act of living” said Giggs. Giggs’ favorite artist is Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist and poet whose drawings and paintings featured direct references to racism, slavery, and the street scene of 1980s New York. “I completely respect his passion and spiritual approach to his works” said Giggs.

Giggs’ works vary in material and medium, as he explores different ways to communicate stories. “My work is characterized by the use of ‘Anaglyphs.’ Two versions of my composite photographic images are printed in different colors (typically blue and red) onto canvas. Next, I apply collage and paint to the printed work. The viewer is then asked to look at the work through 3D glasses, thus creating a dramatic effect” explained Giggs.

In 2016, when he was 19 years old, Giggs’ work was selected for the Sasol New Signature Top 100, an art competition sponsored by Sasol, an international integrated chemicals and energy company based in Johannesburg. The competition promotes emerging artists and their work, and Giggs was able to showcase his art in his first professional exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum. Giggs also exhibited his work in a solo show at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg, Africa’s oldest commercial art gallery, established in 1913. He showcased his work in Rome and has an upcoming exhibition called Divine in London and Cannes, France. Giggs will also have a big solo exhibition in Monaco, France, during the Grand Prix in 2020.

A John Cabot Presidential Scholarship, which covers his full tuition, brought Giggs to Rome in 2017. While in Rome, he held an exhibition where half of his body of work was bought by former South African ambassador to Rome, Nomathemba Tambo. In late 2018, Giggs co-opened the Gaslamp Gallery with Oscar Noriega, another JCU student, in the Maboneng Precint of Johannesburg to showcase young, local talent and sell their work, thus becoming one of the youngest gallery owners in South Africa.

Giggs is currently completing a six-month artist residency in Vallauris, in the south of France, with Undiscovered Canvas, which organizes exhibitions for African visual artists in France and in South Africa, in partnership with Mekanova, a Cannes based contemporary ceramic tableware boutique with an art exhibition space. Giggs aims at becoming one of Africa’s leading artists by the time he turns 30, and he hopes to build an art center to help young artists in Limpopo, the village where he was raised.

To aspiring artists, Giggs says that “Life is Art. You need to really sit down and discover who you really are, and be brave enough to show that to the world.”