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Interview: Nikki Swanepoel

August 26, 2013 By: Ulla Kelly
Nikki & her art. Nikki & her art.


Nicolene (Nikki) Swanepoel is an artist, an animal lover and ... rather surprising, actually. In lovely ways too. Read on ...

Are you really a woman? Prove it. I am not sure that I am a woman – having had regular menstrual periods and duly going into menopause 'at a certain age' seems to suggest so, but I really could have been a man, for all I care. Life would certainly have been different, had I been a man – many of my so-called butch inclinations (like riding motorbikes, drive in international rallies, or an unwillingness to get married) would not have been frowned upon or ridiculed.


What are your thoughts on Women's Day in South Africa? Women’s day is a politicised circus, underlined by the difference in date of the South African women’s day and the international one. While both days relate to struggle, the one is a continuing struggle about gender, the other about a historical struggle of one race’s subjection of another. While the current groot manne in charge are shouting in their proud, angry voices about the inequalities of the past, shouting over the heads of respectful masses of bussed-in, dancing, toy-toying and ululating women at 'women’s day rallies', the real issues confronting women are being swept under the carpet. Well, for once, men are doing some sweeping, so perhaps women should be content with that? Talking about rallies attended by women, have you heard of any top class women rally drivers in South Africa yet?



Where were you during the struggle? I was a frustrated, spotty teenager, trying my best to accept that inequality is a fact, like "girls do not ride motorbikes, ride rallies, play soccer, fly airplanes or surf”.


What are the most important issues facing us in 2013? The monsters are too numerous, and they do not face us, they GLARE at us! The monsters, who are growing larger every millennium, are:

  • That women need to be defined as “different” from men.
  • That women need be feminine and men masculine.
  • That women are called ‘ladies’ and men are called ‘men’.
  • That sex is a need instead of a want.
  • That, when no one wants to co-operate, masturbation is not good enough.
  • That sex is an act with the consent of one person.
  • That giving life is a right instead of a responsibility.
  • That responsibility is a choice of convenience, and not a basic requirement of all able minded adults, men and women alike.
  • That we need women’s days to try eradicate these monsters.


What is your job/business/role and does your gender make a difference to it? I have been “complimented”, on a few occasions, that “I paint like a man”, the first time when I was an insecure, wispy young woman, by my Broederbond art school professor, and the last time, after having developed into a rather more staunch person, much later in life, by a gay man, a serious campaigner for gay rights. Undoubtedly, it is still assumed that women artists are not being as serious about their work as men are – and if a woman is perceived to “work like a man” she will be given somewhat more consideration – providing she does not threaten to step on the toes of the fellows. Which, when she is a better motorbike rider than them, is likely to happen.


The million dollar question - what makes a woman? I think what makes a woman is what makes a human is what makes a man. We are basically the same, but it seems we need to exaggerate our differences. We play our biological roles, better than any paradise fly catcher in a David Attenborough television programme. I long for the day when women can choose to not wear make-up masks and stilettos and rather ride a butch bike, and men can choose to wear them and discard the butch bike, without being frowned upon.


If you are connected to the Helderberg and/or Overberg, please tell us about that. Oh go on, by now you know who I am… ;)

Introduce your animal/s Nikki's dog, Tokkelos, here. Her Facebook art page is here.




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