Azania Forest and her artistic expression - Images courtesy of  - Azania Forest
Images courtesy of Azania Forest

Azania Forest and her artistic expression

Azania was the alternative name proposed for post-apartheid South Africa. During the racial segregation and discrimination of the era, the name Azania manifested the idea of a people that were emancipated to move the rhythms of freedom, belonging and becoming. Clinging onto the essence of this name, Lesego Seoketsa has made it her own.

Azania, Azania Forest, is the fashion savvy explorer that is a vessel for Lesego’s creative expression. Azania Forest was born in 2012. Uncertain of everything she undertook a hiatus which allowed her to centralise her vision, and in 2015 Azania started her blog where she shared her creative experiences and expressions. In 2016, Azania announced that she would be launching a magazine in February the following year. The hype was an ego-booster and a debilitating reminder of her deadline. Now in 2018, Azania magazine has not launched and is being reimagined.

Azania expresses herself through photography, fashion design, styling and writing.  Her exploration and understanding of the experiences of Black Womxn have fuelled the subject of her work, especially her photography. Capturing captivating personal portraits became a crucial part of creative expression and in the time she was meant to be focusing on her magazine, she was consumed by the complexity of photography.

Even though it began with the simple need to “just take pictures”, her photo series are deeply inspired. Azania’s series Woman with the Brown Eyes was inspired by Kees van Dongen’s Woman with Blue Eyes and aimed to counter and challenge European beauty standards. “A black girl with chubby cheeks and a wide nose and short hair is also a subject to be celebrated.”

The muse for her series We Will Rise was the brilliant queer communist painter, Frida Khalo. This series celebrated the persistence of Khalo’s spirit and Azania’s journey of self-celebration and self-empowerment.

Lastly, Mbona Lisa borrows its name and framing from Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. This series spoke to the qualms about land in South Africa and how womxn need to reclaim their bodies from societal constraints for it is their personal land.

Both Woman with the Brown Eyes and We Will Rise were exhibited in a traditional art gallery space and with the constant production of artistic expressions, Azania has been often referred to as an artist. Without any formal training in the fine arts, Azania is still battling with the acceptance of this label. However, from the belief that as a human being created in the likeness of a Creator that creatively expresses, Azania is an artist.

Like a forest, Azania is a dense unpredictable space that manifests without manipulation and houses beautiful, mysterious and sometimes dangerous creations. A forest is where Azania moves towards her highest calling. To this young black curious creator, the climax is internal and with divine intervention she believes her celebratory creative expressions will continue to presents themselves as love and freedom.

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