Wa Lehulere’s award of seventy thousand rands was presented by the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile. The three runners-up received five thousand rands each, state-of-the-art cell phones and art-book hampers, inter alia.
One of the MTN SA Foundation’s most renowned projects, the MTN New Contemporaries Award is a competition designed to promote talented, cutting-edge artists who have not yet received critical acclaim but who are positioned to be the next leaders in the art field. The MTN New Contemporaries Award is distinctly different from conventional art competitions in South Africa as it is entirely unsolicited by the artists it honours. The competition also discards old stereotypes about art and foregrounds our artists as a source of new ideas and media. The concept of the MTN New Contemporaries Award contributes to the development of South Africa’s rich cultural and artistic practice.
Says Eunice Maluleke; Head of MTN SA Foundation: “The MTN SA New Contemporaries Award affirms our responsibility to encourage creative thinking outside the business arena and allows the opportunity for young South Africans to be heard. These awards are also aimed at promoting young artists who have not yet had the opportunity for appropriate exposure.”
The 2010 nominated artists were Donna Kukama; Kemang Wa Luhelere; Mohau Modisakeng and Stuart Bird:
Donna Kukama was born in Mafikeng and completed her B-Tech in Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2005. She was awarded a scholarship to pursue her post-graduate studies in Switzerland in 2005. Donna returned to South Africa after completing the MAPS (Masters of Art in the Public Sphere) programme at the Ecole Cantonale d'Arts du Valais in Sierre in 2008. Donna has participated in various local and international group exhibitions and art fairs, including Arco Madrid, Joburg Art Fair, and Art Miami. She now lives and works in Gauteng.
Kemang Wa Luhelere was born in Cape Town and now resides in Johannesburg. Through the use of multi-disciplinary approaches, his work is an excavation of a real and imagined past. By means of storytelling, both literally and metaphorically, he unearths unwritten narratives, in an excavation of forgotten private and public memories that interrogate fixed notions of identity and masculinity.
Prior to his current study pursuit of visual arts at Wits, Wa Hulere has appeared in various television productions as a guest actor and a presenter. He was also a resident artist at Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. Wa Luhere is also a founding member of the collective Gugulective.
Mohau Modisakeng is a Soweto-born artist who matriculated in Reasoma High School in 2004. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town. His work experience includes a stint at the American School in London, where he worked as a workshop facilitator. He was responsible for organizing various art programs in Soweto that would later be presented as workshops in the UK. Mohau has also worked as a curator/artist at Private-Artist Collective in Johannesburg.
Stuart Bird is a Benoni- born artist. He grew up in Durban and completed an undergraduate and masters degree in Fine Art at UCT. Prior to studying he apprenticed as a church interior decorator and restorer in the UK.
He works in various media in a neo-conceptual framework with an emphasis on craft. Social injustice and the abuse of power are requiring themes in his practise. Bird has been involved in various community based initiatives. His works have been shown around South Africa and in Switzerland and Colombia.
Identifying the four artists for the MTN New Contemporaries Award is something of a curatorial mission. The process starts with a national research project, undertaken by an appointed young curator who is a specialist in contemporary art.
The practice of selecting the curator is in itself a lengthy process, managed by the Arts and Culture Portfolio of the MTN Foundation. The enterprise calls upon previous curators, judges and peers in the industry to nominate a talented individual with proven expertise in contemporary art curation, and who is likely to make the most substantial contribution to capacity-building in the field.
In 2010 the role fell to Nontobeko Ntombela. Nontobeko Ntombela is a curator at the Durban University of Technology art gallery, studying towards a masters’ degree in Fine Arts at the Wits School of Arts. In recent years Ntombela has focused more on curatorial and administrative work, participating actively as a member of two cultural boards; Arts for Human Rights Trust and VANSA (Visual Arts Network).
The adjudicators for the award issued the following statement: “Competition winners function as markers to other practicing artists; to be validated by a jury of one’s peers sets goals for conceptual thinking. We feel that these young voices offer a turning point in what has, in recent history, been the full stops and exclamation marks of creative thinking; theoretical illustration rather than fresh hypotheses. These artists instead tell stories that play off one another, whole sentences with no finite conclusions. This bodes well for their continued practice beyond this, the MTN New Contemporaries Award.
As judges we unanimously arrived at the conclusion that what was vital here was the vision shared by the four artists – the interplay of the artists with one another; their collective vision rather than the sum of the parts. But the current structure of the MTN New Contemporaries Award required us to recognize an individual artistic achievement. Thus, we chose as winner Kemang Wa Lehulere, an artist who best embodies the overall narrative, and a creative practitioner who is most open to the idea of collective sharing and developing. This we wanted to foreground as the most laudable achievement: not the artist as individual genius but as catalyst for larger creative change.”
The announcement of the award was met with sustained applause from an unusually large gallery audience. Whether winner or finalist, all four of these rising stars of the art world are set to enjoy a career trajectory, as the achievements of previous recipients, such as Michael McGarry, Mlungisi Zonde, and Nandipha Mntando, have shown.
The 2010 adjudicators whose task it was to select this year's winner were:
Doung Anwar Jahangeer is a Mauritian-born, Muslim-raised Creole of Indian descent living in Durban, South Africa. His experience of the profession led him to broaden his definition of architecture to focus on a space that unites, rather than walls that divide: architecture without walls. His work is multi-media and includes live performance, film and video, sculpture, painting, installation and architecture. In 2008 he co-founded Ndala, an NPO that focuses on devising initiatives which engage art and architecture for social justice. Within South Africa, his most recent work is a 4-ton stainless steel public sculpture in Johannesburg.
Mokgabudi Amos Letsoalo, born in Polokwane, Limpopo Province, is an artist and the Curator of the Polokwane Art Museum. As an artist Letsoalo has exhibited nationally and internationally. His work is represented in a number of collections including the World Bank Art Collection, Nandos, South African Embassy in Germany, South African High Commission in London, SABC Art Collection, The Nelson Mandela Foundation, Iziko South African National Gallery, Renault South Africa Art Collection and the South African Development Bank Art Collection. Letsoalo has been credited with attracting contemporary South African artists to Polokwane to exhibit, and to promoting otherwise unknown talent from Limpopo Province.
Brenton Maart is an artist, writer and curator, and is the current Director of the KZNSA Gallery, Durban. Recent curatorial projects at the KZNSA include Structure: Avenues and Barriers of Power in the Work of Jeremy Wafer (2009), Red: The Iconography of Colour in the Work of Penny Siopis (2009), Harbour: The Expression of Containment in Contemporary South African Art (2009), Suss’t: the application of ecological, economic and social sustainability principles to South African industrial, product and fashion design (2008 and 2009) and Production Marks: Geometry, Psychology and the Electronic Age (also shown at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and Goethe Institut, Johannesburg). Maart’s photographic installations have been included in numerous national and international group exhibitions. Solo exhibitions of his work include Temporary Architecture (PhotoZA, Johannesburg, 2003), Annotated Index (The Factory, Johannesburg, 2005), Crossword (Gallery Momo, Johannesburg, 2005) and On the Risk of Others: The Photosyntax of Brenton Maart (LACE, Los Angeles, 2008).
Gabi Ngcobo is an independent curator, writer and artist from Durban. Curatorial projects she has been involved in include Second to None at Iziko South African National Gallery, Olvida quen soy/Erase me from who I am (CAAM, Canary Islands, Las Palmas 2006), Titled/Untitled, a curatorial collaboration with Cape Town based collective Gugulective and Scratching the Surface Vol. 1, a manje-manje projects initiative at the AVA Gallery, Cape Town. Recently she co-curated Rope-a-dope: to win a losing war at Cabinet, New York, Second Coming, a curatorial collaboration at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College and Just How Was It?, a one night event about the impact of the Cold War in southern Africa featuring Nastio Mosquito and Cedric Nunn at 6-8 Months project space in New York City. Recently she co-founded the Centre for Historical Re-enactments, an independent platform based in Johannesburg.
Rat Western is a practicing artist, currently based in Grahamstown where she lectures in the Fine Art department of Rhodes University. Western worked for several years in the advertising industry as a freelance web and print media specialist, and has also lectured Digital Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand. Western’s artistic practice ranges from animation, video, net-art and digitally manipulated photography to live performance. Her conceptual focus is the art of storytelling – mythologising daily life and the alchemy of everyday objects. She is currently collaborating on a number of theatrical, contemporary performance pieces and her solo show Dead Media, a site-specific installation in the Albany Natural History Museum, was part of the Main Programme for the 2010 National Arts Festival. She has exhibited extensively in this country and internationally in Florence, Dublin and Rotterdam.
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