Known for expressing themes around cultural and racial identity, Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist Lesley Lokko is a vision. She caught up with House and Leisure‘s story editor Garreth Van Niekerk for a glimpse into her world of books and architecture and travel.
I was born in Dundee, Scotland, but raised in Ghana, West Africa. I left Ghana because I was sent to an English boarding school. And there was a coup d’etat. I’m Head of School at the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture, and a novelist (of chick-lit ‘bonkbusters’). Yes, it’s true. I started writing erotic fiction because I wanted to make some money. I love being an architect in Africa because we’re the world’s youngest continent in terms of average age and it shows: enormous energy, youthfulness and vigour! People think architects are organised and boring. But the reality of being an architect is a lot of chop and change. They really are jacks- and jills-of-all-trades. Female architects are architects. Plain and simple. My earliest memory of design is the long, low horizontal lines of the bungalow in Takoradi, Ghana, where I grew up. My favourite piece of design in Johannesburg is the CBD. It never fails to impress. When I dress up I wear pleats (but not by Issey). My kitchen cupboard staples are sun-dried tomatoes and Ghanaian pepper sauce, though eaten separately. My go-to comfort food is everything, sadly. The restaurant I love best is Lucky Bean Restaurant in Melville. They know me so well I don’t have to order. My winter drink is Babylonstoren Chardonnay. (It’s my summer drink, too.) I always travel with my passport and a little pink wooden pig that my sister gave me. I’ve no idea why. The one place I’ve visited that I’ll never forget is Réunion Island. From my travels I always like to bring back memories (as opposed to photographs). My next dream holiday is Edinburgh. It’s my favourite place to unwind. If money were no object, I’d treat myself to an exceedingly early retirement. I’m reading The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan and The Women by TC Boyle. I’m listening to Spotify (which does the choosing for me). I hate it when I have too many things to do. I am definitely not patient. If I could change one thing about South Africa it would be follow-up culture. Don’t leave Joburg without trying everything. And I’m not being facetious! When I was younger I used to think that I could think beyond my imagination. Some of the best advice I ever got was not to waste people’s time telling them what you don’t want to do. Tell them what you do want to do – and make it snappy.