Nontsikelelo Veleko was born in 1977 in Bodibe, South Africa, and lives and works in Johannesburg. She was brought up in Cape Town and studied photography between 1999 and 2003 at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown precinct in Johannesburg, an initiative co-founded by veteran photographer David Goldblatt.
In the last couple of years Veleko has been attracting a great deal of attention with her striking work entitled Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder, a depiction of South African street style. Defying the clichés of what life can be like in South Africa, Veleko captures young people dressed in unique outfits, often with handmade elements.
Focusing on issues of the identity, she examines how people present themselves to the outside world and thus construct their identities. Through the use of fashion and clothing Veleko questions perceived notions of beauty. She focuses her lens on those around her, but at times she also turns the lens towards herself, posing both in guises of various identities and representing herself in self-portraiture.
She focuses on the fashion they experiment with and how they use art forms such as graffiti for expression. Lolo says about her Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder series of photographs, “I named my project Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder because other people, when they saw those people dressed up like that, would ask: ‘How can you dress up in yellow pants and a lime green jersey with stripes?’ And 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. I was excited [by them] I didn’t care what anyone else was saying … It was all about drawing attention around issues of beauty. And it was also about street fashion … But I don’t think that they’re just performing themselves; I’ve lived it. I used to be one of those people…” (Ref)
By demonstrating various labels she highlights how the culture is shaped by these products. She also uses herself, her identity and her success to understand herself and where she fits into this group.
Nontsikelelo Veleko was a nominee and finalist of the MTN New
Contemporary Artists in 2003 and has since participated in prominent
local and international exhibitions. In 2006 her photographs were ex
Nontsikelelo Veleko’s Wonderland Essay, By Nadia Arnold
Standard Bank Arts