Ange Madame FKA Angel-Ho // An Experience That Disrupts - Bubblegum Club

Ange Madame FKA Angel-Ho // An Experience That Disrupts

Ange Madame, formerly known as Angel-Ho, also known as Angelo Antonio Valerio won the 2023 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art Prize. The Cape Town musician and creative director is known for her bold non-binary queer image and intense live performances that feature drag and digital media. As founder of the NON-Collective, Angel-Ho has gained global acclaim for work that aims to address social issues, deconstruct oppression and spread positive energy. Her Instagram bio simply reads: “I identify as: an experience that disrupts.”

Ange Madame

In a Bubblegum Club feature called Angel Ho – Energy Without Restraint (2016), Christopher McMichael wrote “Angelo Valerio was identified by many publications as making the perfect soundtrack to the tumult of Rhodes and Fees Must Fall.” This article painted Angel-Ho as a disruptive force in music and culture, emphasizing the artist’s work’s unique blend of pop culture, non-binary aesthetics, and political themes, coalescing to challenge norms and inspire change through fearless performances.

In Ruth Saxelby’s article Meet ANGEL-HO: The Cape Town Artist Resisting Colonialism’s Legacy Through Sound (2015), Angel-Ho is described as a force against colonialism’s enduring impact in South Africa. Through her debut EP “ASCENSION” and the collective NON-Records, Angel-Ho confronts racial and social injustices, using music as a platform for activism and identity exploration. her work challenges perceptions and fosters global dialogue on resistance and empowerment.

Ange remarked on winning the prize: “It’s tough out here. It’s really tough. I was basically making videos with no money, and people offered their help to make music videos. And that is what caught the attention of the Council. […] I still feel like I’m very independent, and with some of what they’ve given us—free rein to do whatever we want—which is great, but I’m still trying to find my feet as a human, as a creative. Because now I have all these resources at my disposal. So, what exactly am I trying to say? […] it’s kind of […] a money shock.”

Ange Madame

Ange Madame

Indeed, having keenly observed Angel-Ho’s career for some time, it is extremely encouraging to see her finally receiving her flowers. Just like many other creatives, her career has had to develop with little to no support from local cultural institutions. “Like Zoë Modiga said, it was totally a lifeline to continue creating,” Angel notes. Yet, Angel’s experience post-award has been a mixture of validation and a persistent reminder of the need for self-sufficiency. “Even when you did win the prize, you still felt like you had to go at it by yourself,” she reflected.

With a slight disclaimer, I asked, “I know it can get annoying if you’re a queer artist to always be asked whether queerness has to do with your practice, but do you think that this is an integral part of your practice?” Ange’s response was both generous and familiar. “I’d be telling a lie if I said my transness isn’t a part of [it][…] I am literally a trans person of colour, you know, I have a mixed heritage. […] I have a very unique perspective. […] because there’s so much oppression that I experience from living as trans feminine. […] And it’s all because I choose to present myself, whether it’s online or in person, in a particular way.”

And of course, this work is tinted by its environment. Not without its limitations, South Africa’s queer scene can be fertile ground for creative exploration. Having worked with other queer icons like Athi Ruga Patra or Dope Saint Jude, I was curious whether that was something that just organically happens and Ange answered, “It’s so organic. There’s not even a question of doubt. […] nothing was forced, you know. It was very much like we were on the same frequency with thinking, ideas, energy-wise. […] we all believed in the vision to create.”

Ange Madame

Ange Madame

Of course, the creative path is no bed of roses. On top of underappreciation, Ange Madame has faced her share of exploitation. “I haven’t been compensated correctly in exhibitions,” she revealed. “I probably sold about four works in my art career. […] recently I was working with—I’m not going to mention names, but I was working with an institution, and they wanted to buy my works. […] And the minute I told them the price, they said we don’t want to buy it. […] People want to use me for shock value in [their] exhibitions.” 

But of course, none of this will stop Ange Madame. While she remains tight-lipped about upcoming projects, viewers can catch her at the National Arts Festival. On social media, Ange seems to be enjoying Makhanda’s vibrant community energy, preparing to take the stage and further amplify her flourishing voice. Her hope for her performance is, “For people to just feel the joy of theatre and enjoy it.” Beyond the festival, Ange has new music out. The Birth Becomes Her was released on the 14th of June and a new video drops on the 24th. 

Angel-Ho’s recognition on a national scale is significant because it is both an example of the systemic issues in our art world and an embodiment of successful independence and resilience. Despite the slow pace of cultural institutions, awarding artists like Angel-Ho shows they are not entirely out of touch. The Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art Prize 2023 marks the continuation of a personal renaissance for Ange Madame whose work is a public testament to the strength of embracing uniqueness and boldly defying boundaries.

Ange Madame

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