2019 Thami Mnyele Fine Arts Awards winners
Posted on 2 October 2019
Overall/ First Prize Winner
Umsebenzi wendoda (work/duties of a man) is a visual letter to mothers who raise strong men in situations that are unkind to them as mothers. It's a body of work dedicated to women who had to raise a man in the absence of the father figure in a society that considers raising a man to be the duty of a man, yet provides few positive father figures as role models. The artist pays tribute to the mother/s that underwent sacrifices, waking up in early hours, toiling all day to put a meal on the table. The work is a nod to the woman playing both roles in a house - proud of her son growing into the young man she always hoped for. The load she carried alone is lessened and she can finally rest.
Ekurhuleni Prize Winner
My artworks speak about the lives, issues, struggles and journeys of the people of Johannesburg.
The paintings focus on current issues in different parts of the city and how these different sections of the city interconnect, underscoring how they've been neglected by government and a lack of service delivery.
Johannesburg is a busy city filled with crime, poverty, fraud, corruption and conversely, new opportunities - but with all this comes pain and happiness.
The paintings I create consist of highly textured abstract backgrounds interpreting the dirty streets of our current society but still highlighting the beauty of this city we call home. The imagery used is inspired by the architecture, people and cultures that interact with one another in this dystopian landscape.
My art is a form of storytelling so I use my influences, news and memories of where I've been to inform me the subject matter on which I focus.
Multi and New Media Merit Award and Lizamore and Associates Mentorship Programme Winner
Post Apartment is a project that deals with inner-city Johannesburg?s hijacked buildings and the social and historical implications of these buildings.
The project derived from the documentation of a hijacked building opposite to the artist?s studio. The documentation was done through a cellphone 'mirror-photo' app as it slices an image in half or into a quarter.
It then duplicates and flips the sliced section to fill the screen. This resulted in a personifying effect of the building as its structural qualities became either mouths or eyes that simulate an observation and/or an act of communication.
Phones play an important role in the project as the building is synonymous with thieves that robbed passersby of their belongings, especially their phones. This resulted in the building's ostracism. Cellphones act as pocket-sized manifestations of our recorded history and losing them represents a loss of self and our connection to a network.
Art on Paper Merit Award Winner
To be taught trivia is a 32-component series that emanates from my recent body of work through which I examine the quality of South Africa's education system as received by grade 11 & 12 learners of our present time.
South Africa spends more on education than the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Regardless of the money spent, South Africa's basic education system was rated 126th out of 138 countries in the World Economic Forum 2016/17: Global Competitiveness Report, while its higher education and training was ranked 134th. These rankings are dismal - and herewith, my sentimentalised portrayal on 'NSC Examination Papers' is compatibly marked by deliberation.
Painting Merit Award Winner
As an overall body of work, the pervading focus is on feelings of nostalgia and the process of catharsis. In observation of the chasm that can exist between past and present realities, I explore tensions of how this gap is filled with things that we as young South Africans lacked, wished for and often imagined could have positively contributed to our young lives.
This sense of loss, however, can contribute to vulnerability, honesty, grit and accountability if we are willing to recognise and build on both our hurt and joy. The understanding of how we are responsible for the space we hold on earth regardless of our circumstances enables us to preserve and to be reminded that we have the power to make better choices daily.
I'm continuously inspired by witnessing daily resilience despite challenging circumstances. My process involves observing and documenting these moments through photography, drawing inspiration from the emotions I experience when the lens captures a second in time.
Each photo, which I either take myself, comes from family albums, or has been given to me by friends and associates, evokes a story for me and I use them individually or collectively to recreate and recompose a narrative underpinned by the rural and township life in which I grew up.
My experience of these perspectives and realities are important to me when recreating the artwork. These recreated moments are personal, yet universally connect us through collective consciousness of unfulfilled dreams and desires. I am continually challenged to make empowering choices in my life rather than remaining paralysed by an unwillingness to accept past and present. It is in this space of vulnerability and loss that I locate my truest work.
Sculpture Merit Award Winner
Ukuzizamela (trying for yourself) is a series of sculptures that explores and celebrate the realities of informal waste pickers in the Vaal region of Gauteng. The work is inspired by the artist's interest in the daily lived experiences of informal waste pickers who remain invisible both within societies and the waste management system due to the kind of work they do.
They are perceived as criminals, dirty, drug addicts and untrustworthy and are seen to be causing problems within societies.
The body of work commends the everyday hard work of informal waste pickers which is the collecting, sorting, and transporting of waste for resale. Ceramic clay was used to portray the unique characters of informal waste pickers, elevating their importance as individuals in spite of the difficult working conditions they operate in.
The use of recyclable waste as part of the sculptures signifies the altering of rubbish from its state of not having value to something beautiful, thus giving it new meaning, purpose and value.
Honorable Mention Award
The Ancestors' Mask/Wa badimo concept is a series of surrealism artworks aiming to provoke emotions and uplift people's spirit by accentuating the notion that our personal journey is more universal than a single story.
My work process is informed by rough sketches and description notes in my sketchbook, which inspire the choice of medium.
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