Kitso Lelliott

Artist & Filmmaker

Artist and filmmaker Kitso Lelliott is facing the age-old dilemma of how to make a living from her creative endeavours without pandering to commercalism.

At 29 she has many years to figure it out as she hones her focus on audio-visual work with a strong experimental flavour.

Ultimately, Lelliott wants her films to reach a large audience and to tell African stories that will inspire fellow Africans. “When I was growing up I aspired to certain things that had nothing to do with being an African. I admired things from outside the continent because the cultural work of America and Europe was admired,” she says.

“I want to tell stories that are from here and give a vision of this place that a little girl growing up in Africa can aspire to. Stories about the place we are from and that define it in different ways that are not negative.”

Lelliott graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Arts with a bachelor’s degree in fine art in 2006 and a master’s in film and television in 2011, and she is now studying towards her doctorate. After that she will probably seek some academic work to support herself while she allows her artistic and experimental side to develop.

Conducting academic research for a university would serve the dual purpose of earning a living and informing her work as an artist, she says. “My reason for finding other ways of supporting myself is that I do not want to compromise what I have to say for commercial interests. It is important that I have creative freedom, particularly in these early stages of my career, and this is a way to do it.”

In May, Lelliott thoroughly explored her artistic possibilities as one of 12 young artists chosen to work with professional mentors during a month-long residency in Senegal sponsored by the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Lagos.

Her thesis film, The Tailored Suit, premiered at the Tri-Continental Film Festival in South Africa in 2011 and was screened at the Africa in Motion Festival in Edinburgh,
Next Reel Film Festival in Singapore and Cine Sud in France. — Lesley Stones