Lerato Nkosi is fascinated by the influence we wield over each other, and how – with a word of encouragement, a piece of advice or a gentle nudge in a certain direction – one person can change another’s life. She’s even more intrigued by the fact that, often, it’s a woman who holds this transformative power.
Lerato’s reflection on this theme can be explained by her own life experience: growing up in the Mpumalanga village of Swalala, she was raised by her mom and grandmother – both strong, single women. “My father passed away when I was one year old, and my mother had to me and my siblings alone. In some ways, history was repeating itself – my grandfather to leave my grandmother to earn money. He became a bus driver in Johannesburg, while she remained in Swalala to look after their eight children – all of whom have become successful in their own right.” Just as she’s struck by the strength it must have taken her mother to inculcate values which turned her brother and sister into “people who have the potential to change society for the better”, so Lerato frequently considers the inner resources her grandmother must have tapped into when facing challenges.
Lerato had just 12 years to experience the nurturing of these fierce females before her grandmother fell ill, and her uncle suggested she move in with her family where she could enjoy the benefits of growing up with two parents.
It was also her uncle who suggested she study subjects like biology and physical science in high school – which, she admits, she failed dismally. “I was far more drawn to the visual arts,” Lerato says – which is why she chose to study fashion design at the Tshwane University of Technology. She followed this path for some time after graduation, moving to Cape Town where she took on a post as a visual merchandiser for a major retail chain before deciding to freelance as a trends forecaster.
Then, in 2020, she decided it was time to focus on her art, around the same time she relocated to Johannesburg. “I’d always planned to get back into creating. Because it was something that came easily to me, I believed I could pick it up again when the time was right,” Lerato says. Her instinct was spot on: galleries had already begun taking notice of her work, starting with an exhibition at the AVA Gallery. Just a few years later, in 2021, she was chosen to take part in RMB Talent Unlocked; a showcase celebrating young female artists.
She takes her own role as a creator very seriously. Lerato explains that the message behind her ink and stamp depictions are amplified by her choice of words adorning the piece, usually a text she’s read or a scene from a film. The presence of these words means that the viewer is required to lean in to take a closer look, inviting them to engage with the meaning at a deeper level.
She’s currently preparing for a number of international art competitions and, in each case, her body of work carries the same message. “I want to remind women of our strength. I want to tell whoever is looking at my work that we don’t have to be victims; we have the power to change our circumstances.”
Latitudes Online (Reshape, 2022),
Turbine Art Fair (2022),
Art and About Gallery (Salon Collectibles, 2022),
Pretoria Art Museum (Sasol New Signatures art competition (2021),
Lizamore and Associates (Sempiternal Summer, 2021),
Everard Read Circa Gallery (RMB Talent Unlocked, 2021),
AVA Gallery (2016),
WHIPS Gallery (Arts Alive, 2015),
The meeting place (Art and Fashion exhibition, 2014),
Museum Park (Arts and Craft day festival, 2014),
Unisa Sunnyside Campus (Shadow Dungeon Spectrum Exhibition, 2014)
Freedom Park (creatures of light, 2013)
Further Reading In Articles
African Artist Directory