The word is that there is nothing monotonous about Joburg’s dynamic monotypebabe, Lebogang Mogul Mabusela


Ngikukhape?, 2021, Oil based monotype with acrylic handpainting, Paper size: 39,2 x 53,5 cm, Image size: 29 x 41,3 cm. Image credit: Thys Dullaart.

The David Krut Workshop (DKW) recently collaborated with Lebogang Mogul Mabusela, a multidisciplinary artist and self-proclaimed “monotypebabe” and “zinequeen” based in Johannesburg. As the monotypebabe, she runs the printmaking curatorial scheme The Monotypebabe Curatorial. She is also the proud founder of Makoti Technologies™ (est. 2017) – a bridal gift shop offering a dynamic range of gunz, tools and technologies designed to “protect, enhance women’s desires and to roast patriarchy”, as she describes it. We sat down with her to get to know her and her loquacious new series of oil monotypes a bit better.

The monotypebabe, Lebogang Mogul Mabusela [left] with DKW printer, Sarah Judge [right].

During her recent collaboration with the DKW, printer Sarah Judge and our printing team assisted Mabusela in further developing her body of work Johannesburg Words with the Weh Beyontse series. Where Mabusela worked primarily with watercolour monotypes prior to her collaboration with the DKW, her time at our workshop was spent delving into oil monotypes. This allowed her to experiment with colour recipes and a much larger scale to deliver an engaging body of work in vibrant colour and almost non-dismissible scale, as DKP gallery director and curator Amé Bell notes. “The unique pink in this body of work matches the femininity of the monotypebabe perfectly – it speaks to the strength of women in its prominence, but is also accessible and engaging in its softness”, says Bell.

The collaboration also led to the incorporation of chine collé and collaging in her work which adds interesting and meaningful layers. “The larger scale combined with the use of prominent colour in her new oil monotypes not only accentuates and brings out the detail in her work, but also makes the message come across stronger and louder”, Bell says. DKW printer, Sarah Judge, adds that Mabusela’s very successful and intentional use of objects like her recognisable doilies, added to these interesting layers in her work by creating textured background embossing. Judge studied with Mabusela at WITS so had an idea of each other’s work before coming together as printer/artist [printer] for this collaboration. “It was great to see how one printmaker is able to encourage and influence another printmaker. My goal was to help Lebo understand the oil based monotype process so that she too could take it into her own small[er] print studio and collaborate with other artists, allowing collaboration to continue beyond our DKW space”, says Judge.

Mabusela was born in 1996 and graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. As a student she was awarded the Standard Bank Fine Arts Prize and recent runner-up recipient of the Young Womxn Studio Bursary, presented by the renowned Bag Factory Artists’ Studios and sponsored by artist Sam Nhlengethwa. Over the past few years, Mabusela has participated in a number of exhibitions, which include group exhibitions and presentations at the WITS Art Musuem (WAM), The Project Space, Turbine Art Fair, Latitudes Art Fair and the Design Indaba in Cape Town as part of the Top 50 Emerging Creatives Class of 2020.

Read on to hear directly from the monotypebabe on herself, her works and her collaboration with DKW.

Tiina Liebenberg [TL]: How would you describe your artistic practice?

When making artworks I usually have an idea or concept and then I ask myself, which media or material can successfully assist in articulating this? Is it water? Is it sound? Is it performance art? Or painting or photography, maybe all? … Materials, stuff, objects and things are talkative you see…

Sometimes an object will captivate me and I let it talk to me and then I reply and communicate through making art with it, I translate what it says to me. 

I would say my practice is provocative. 

In my practice of Makoti Technologies when I make paper gunz, I use paper intentionally because I believe material is talkative thus making the fragility of the gun really telling about false sense of security of women in South Africa.

TL: You are heading the Monotypebabe Curatorial which is extremely exciting and innovative, what does the project mean to you and where would you like to see it going?

It was to give myself an opportunity to fulfil “being a monotypebabe” and rigorously delve into monotypes. The innovation honestly came from the lack of access of space and money, at first I was reluctant to have a small press, and undermined the idea of a smaller that A4 artwork and then I started to think about how creative and wild artist’s imaginations are, and I thought hmmm, we could do something unique here. And then I went ahead. I am really striving to make things sophisticated. 

TL: When, where and how did your love of printmaking start?

My love for printmaking started at The Wits School of Arts [WSOA], I guess I love challenges and I take myself a bit too seriously sometimes and printmaking looked serious and hectic.

TL: How did the collaboration with DKW come about?

I was a TAF, I had The Monotypebabe Curatorial booth there and me being the diva that I am I was wearing high heels, and during some of my perusals at the DKW booth I caught David’s attention lol, as he was concerned for me about my feet being that I will be standing the whole day. Here I ended up introducing myself and showing David my exhibition, he was very lovely and acted like such a mentor introducing me to some people and then one of the TAF interns suggested I go ask for a collab coz it looks like David admires me. I thought one has to get invited and stuff and I was waiting for an invite one day, but I went ahead and shot my shot and asked to collaborate with DKW on some monotypes.

TL: How did you decide on monotypes specifically? What about the technique appeals to you?

When I started doing monotypes at WSOA I was exposed to linocut and intaglio and silkscreen. Those mediums seemed limiting to what I was doing and working with, I was working with doilies and with monotype I could print the actual object. That diversity of mark making that monotype allows, look at direct trace monotype for example it could look like an etching. One could manipulated a subtractive monotype and make it look like a lino. A mixture of oil based and watercolour layered on top of each other could look a bit like a litho. I think monotypes can mimic other mediums. The lack of editions for me is simpler on a curatorial perspective because having too many inventory on hand is hard. I also am a bit opposed to the idea of people coming to make prints because they want to replicate images and “make money” selling that image 20 times.

TL: How and to which extent does working in monotype allow your artistic style and general themes to be translated to?

In a sense that printmaking is quite political and considering how my work is political too, and feminist. The whole monotypebabe name. When I was working with doilies monotypes allowed me to use the object and create that feeling of tactility. With other mediums you translate the object through drawing and looking, with monotypes you translate the object via creating its impression.

TL: Did the collaboration and/or experimentation in the DKW direct your practice anywhere specific? Did it make you think differently about approaching your work?

When I was working with doilies, there was no painting and figurative work and I was using oil based ink and relied on transforming the object itself. And now with the new works I am exploring the Johannesburg Words series Weh Beyontse, painting, and brush manipulation is involved, at The Monotypebabe Curatorial I was working with watercolour which Bevan De Wet taught me. Now here at DKW I am doing that in oil, what I have learnt that will be handy is the use of a colour wheel for easier colour mixing which is more complicated for oil compared to watercolour. I have also thought carefully to dress the figures by ways of incorporating the doily and using chine collé and collaging. The collaboration also helped me with making bigger works so that I have more diversity in that Johannesburg Words body of work.

TL: Could you please tell me a bit more about the Johannesburg Words series which you worked on at the DKW?

The inspiration was from the everyday experiences of walking in Joburg from home to the studio. This being from the body of work of Johannesburg Words I have been doing in my studio. Johannesburg Words: This iconic city allows you the decency to walk everywhere, it gives you the privilege to walk 40 minutes from home, to work, to school, or anywhere else; every single day. It is an experience to be enjoyed, by the everyday woman, a femme, who does not typically get to enjoy raving about the beauty of Johannesburg. It contradicts the reality of navigating within misogynoir; a dangerous space filled with obstacles, sexist roadblocks and patriarchal potholes. This body of work depicts voyeurism and the male gaze expressed through portraiture and text. The work is also way more about catcalling but also about subverting the male gaze in art and interrogating male desire, and showing how dangerous it can be. The series uses a lot of pink to show the positioning and the feminine voice. 

TL: Are you thinking of any future printing collaborations and/or the exploration of any other printing techniques?

I would love to create more linocuts in blue and a pink background, I am inspired by the John Muafangejo linocut boy. I love the way he is able to make colourful the black and white. I would love to make grotesque portraits of men, in the pink and blue and use the roughness and cuts of carving. I think the Weh Beyontse prints are too colorful and comical, I want future works to really portray the seriousness of harassment.

A few other noteworthy things about the monotypebabe:

“I love Stevie Wonder, I drink tea, I love avocados, my favourite colour is white, I am an only child. Every Christmas I enjoy listening to Christmas music. And my favourite TV show/series is The Walking Dead. I am a minimalist.

We are so excited to share more about Mabusela and her work and can’t wait to see where she takes her work next. A selection of her work will also be featured in a group exhibition of monotypes at our gallery space in January next year – watch this space…

Sbongiseni Khulu [left] and Kim-lee Loggenberg [centre] with Lebogang [right]
Lebogang with fellow artist Vusi Beauchamp [right], also working on a series of monotypes, in the David Krut Workshop