Blessing Ngobeni, Nthato Mokgata, Lulu Mlangeni, Jefferson Tshabalala, and Sisonke Xonti join the ranks of the Standard Bank Young Artists
This November sees five of South Africa’s most innovative and talented artistic individuals being awarded one of the country’s most sought-after arts prizes. Since its inception in 1981, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards (SBYAA) have served as a marker for the artistic work that’s being created, and aspired towards, across the country. This year’s batch of winners prove that the SBYAA still seek to reward passion, dedication, and a desire to carve out new ways of creating and engaging with art and the world around us.
At a ceremony in Johannesburg on Tuesday 5 November, the 2020 SBYAA winners were announced. The winners are Blessing Ngobeni (Visual Art), Nthato Mokgata (also known as Spoek Mathambo) (Music), Lulu Mlangeni (Dance), Jefferson Tshabalala (Theatre), and Sisonke Xonti (Jazz).
This year marks 36 years of Standard Bank’s sponsorship of the SBYAA and sees each of these young artists receiving a cash incentive, as well as a commission to premier a new work or exhibit on the Main Programme of the 46th National Arts Festival, taking place in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from 25 June to 5 July 2020.
Jazz has a long and important history in South Africa’s journey as a nation. Musicians like Sisonke Xonti are the ones who continue to both honour the legacy of the genre and ensure it remains relevant and innovative. Xonti, the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, is an increasingly well-known saxophonist. Few would have guessed, however, that the musician only took up music as a full-time career six years ago, having studied towards a degree in law throughout his university career.
For Jefferson ‘J.Bobs’ Tshabalala, there was always something about conventional theatre that didn’t quite do it for him. The solution? Create his own style of theatre to tell his own kind of stories outside of the traditional frameworks of the stage. It was this kind of innovative thinking that earned him the title of Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre 2020.
Lulu Prudence Mlangeni is no stranger to awards. In fact, the dancer, choreographer, and teacher currently has four separate awards to her name, collected over a career that has seen her performing across the country and the globe. The 2007 Dance Umbrella award for Most Outstanding Female Dancer, the winner of Season 2’s So You Think You Can Dance? South Africa, and the First Recipient for the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award in 2014 are just a few of Mlangeni’s achievements. Now, she adds the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance to that list.
Lulu Prudence Mlangeni is no stranger to awards. In fact, the dancer, choreographer, and teacher currently has four separate awards to her name, collected over a career that has seen her performing across the country and the globe.
The 2007 Dance Umbrella award for Most Outstanding Female Dancer, the winner of Season 2’s So You Think You Can Dance? South Africa, and the First Recipient for the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award in 2014 are just a few of Mlangeni’s achievements. Now, she adds the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance to that list.
“Next, I think I must win an Oscar,” she laughs.
Dance, explains Mlangeni, is more than a performative act. It’s a vehicle for healing. “Not only for myself, but for others, too. As a nation we’re going through a lot and dance is that vehicle to open up conversation. To say, ‘You’re going through so much, but there’s still hope at the end of the day, you just need to fight.’”
For Mlangeni, the road to dance began at eight years old when, seated in front of the television in Meadowlands, Soweto, she tuned into the popular South African dance programme Shell Road to Fame.
“I saw a group of dancers from my neighbourhood on the show and I was like, ‘No ways! How did I miss this?’ That’s when I started falling in love with dance,” she recalls. “My uncle then put me in touch with this community dance group. I auditioned and I was in.”
While her time spent performing with the group saw her travelling and sustaining a passion for the craft, dance was still very much a hobby for Mlangeni, and certainly not a skill she ever believed would become a career. It was at the age of 14 that Mlangeni found herself seated in the audience at a Dance Umbrella festival and had her life changed.
“When I entered the theatre I was already blown away by the set, the ambience and how everything looked. The moment they started performing I felt like I was watching a movie. I was watching Moving Into Dance performing, it was Gregory Maqoma’s work. Everything was intertwined – dance, music, text, set,” says Mlangeni. “After leaving that theatre I just wanted to go into a studio and dance myself out. That’s how it felt, I was so inspired. Since that day, I’ve never looked back.”
Since then, Mlangeni has performed nationally and internationally in places like Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Switzerland, Brazil, France, Mozambique, Botswana, Mexico, Russia, USA, Germany, Madagascar, Reunion Island and many more.
Mlangeni also worked with the Vuyani Dance Theatre for over a decade, first as a trainee dancer, then as a rehearsal coach, and later as their Creative Assistant. It’s been over a year since she’s left Vuyani to pursue a freelance career, and Mlangeni is enjoying this new chapter in her career. Winning the SBYA Award for Dance, she says, is hugely encouraging for this next chapter in her career.
“This award puts you on a pedestal and says: ‘This is what you’ve done, this is what you’ve achieved, and now you need to push even further.’ It comes with a lot of expectation and a lot of recognition. It’s been so hard keeping this a secret. I wanted to shout the news to everybody as soon as I found out.”
South African electronic music and Nthato Mokgata (also known as Spoek Mathambo) go hand in hand. In addition to being an active musician in the realms of experimental electronic music, Mokgata has also played an important role in platforming South African musicians and producers on a global scale. For Mokgata being awarded the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Music is both an honour and a necessary bit of motivation. “It’s encouraging. It’s super exciting. The SA arts industry is shamefully under-funded and under-supported so an award like this comes as a lot of validation and support,” says the artist.
The 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Art, Blessing Ngobeni, is proof that above all else, innovation and perseverance will see you come out on top, no matter your background. Born in Tzaneen, Limpopo, Ngobeni lived through a difficult childhood and subsequently ran away to Johannesburg at the age of 10. As a teenager, he became involved in petty crime and was arrested. It was during his time in jail that Ngobeni engaged with art through the Tsoga (Wake Up) Arts Projectand decided to become an artist.
Gabrielle Goliath is a multidisciplinary artist who is known for sensitively negotiating complex social concerns in her work, particularly relating to gender-based and sexual violence. Among this PhD candidate’s long-term performance projects is her Elegy series, where each iteration marks the absence of a woman or LGBTQI+ individual who has been raped and killed in South Africa.
Gabrielle Goliath is a multidisciplinary artist known for her conceptually distilled and sensitive negotiations of complex social concerns, particularly in relation to situations of gendered and sexualised violence. She is currently working on a number of long-term performance projects, including her Elegy series, initiated in 2015. Elegy performances have been staged throughout South Africa and internationally, with each iteration marking the absent presence of a specific woman or LGBTQI+ individual raped and killed in South Africa.
Goliath is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Creative Arts (UCT), and holds a Master’s degree in Fine Art from the University of the Witwatersrand (with distinction). Drawing on music’s capacity to both commemorate and evoke nostalgic memory, her current research aims to explore the possibilities and ethical demands of performing and making ‘shareable’ traumatic recall, specifically, the lived and perpetually relieved trauma of rape survivors in South Africa.
As an artist, she has exhibited widely and was recently selected to participate in the 11th Bamako Encounters Biennale (2017), Mali, where she was awarded the InstitutFrançais, Afriqueen Créations Prize (Jury Prize) for her 5-channel video installation Personal Accounts. Her work features in numerous public and private collections, including the Iziko South African National Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery and Wits Art Museum.
Amy Jephta is a playwright who has also built a reputation as a filmmaker, activist and academic. A champion of theatre by and for women, she has been a driving force in local and global initiatives promoting opportunities for women playwrights. Aside from her theatre work, she wrote the script for the film Ellen – The Ellen Pakkies Story and is editing a collection of plays by African women.
Amy Jephta is a playwright born and raised in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. She spent the past decade building a solid reputation as a filmmaker, activist and academic.
Jephta’s work as an artist and activist has been guided by an unwavering commitment to championing theatre by and for women. She has served as chairperson for Women Playwrights International (WPI), a global NPO that aims to create opportunities and space for women playwrights and currently operates in over 40 territories worldwide.
Jephta also sits on the advisory panel for CASA, an annual award for women playwrights that facilitates connections between writers in Canada and South Africa.
In 2015, she co-founded the African Women Playwrights Network, a two-year digital networking project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.
She has also been one of the outstanding playwrights with a consistent and committed focus on producing text-based theatre within the South African context.
Some of the notable plays she has worked on include, Other People's Lives, All Who Pass, Flight Lessons, Free Falling Bird, Damage Control and Kitchen, Interiors.
Much of her work has been published in South Africa and has been performed at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, the Riksteatern in Stockholm, the Bush Theatre, Theatre 503 and the Jermyn Street Theatres in London.
Jephta is the writer behind the film Ellen, The Ellen Pakkies Story which tells the story of a Cape Flats Mother who killed her drug-addicted son. She had a monologue of hers directed by Danny Boyle and performed by James McAvoy as part of The Children's Monologues in 2015 at the Royal Court, London and in 2017 at Carnegie Hall, New York.
Jephta has completed work editing a collection of plays titled Contemporary Plays by African Women. It is due for release in 2019 by Methuen.
Kitty Phetla is the principal dancer and choreographer at Joburg Ballet. She has toured and performed extensively on stages across the globe. A career highlight was dancing The Dying Swan solo for Nelson Mandela and the Dutch royal family, but one of her most noteworthy recent performances was her Queen Modjadji-inspired Rain Dance for Cape Town, in situ at the then-parched Theewaterskloof Dam.
Kitty Phetla is a principal dancer and choreographer at Joburg Ballet. She has toured and performed extensively on stages across the globe. A career highlight was dancing The Dying Swan solo for Nelson Mandela and the Dutch royal family, but one of her most noteworthy recent performances was her Queen Modjadji-inspired Rain Dance for Cape Town, in situ at the then-parched Theewaterskloof Dam.
Kitty Phetla is a dancer, model and radio personality. She was born and raised in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Phetla started her training during her time at primary school thanks to Martin Schönberg of the Ballet Theatre Afrikan fame, who picked her from a crowd of 60 hopeful children at Orange Grove Primary School. She matriculated at The National School of the Arts in 2001.
In 2002, she became part of Mzansi Productions (now the Joburg Ballet), where she is a principal dancer and choreographer.
Phetla choreographed pieces like “Within” for the 2008 Arts Alive and “Carmina Burana” for South African Mzansi Ballet. In 2012 she took on Anna Pavlova’s famous solo in “The Dying Swan”. Her excellent take of the role saw her dance in Amsterdam where she performed for former president Nelson Mandela and the Dutch royal family. The role also led to her being profiled by the 21 Icons project as the eighth icon of its second season.
Phetla has toured and performed extensively across stages in Switzerland, Australia, Dubai, Germany, England, Zimbabwe and more recently Russia.
One of Phetla’s most recent works was a Rain Dance for Cape Town, an in situ performance at the dry and barren bed of the Theewaterskloof Dam, which had been completely emptied during the months of drought. Phetla’s performance was inspired by Queen Modjadji of the Balobedu who is said to hold the power to cause rain to fall. The multi-talented Phetla is also the host of Radio 2000’s weekend show, Overnight with Kitty from 12-3am on Saturdays and Sundays.
Mandla Mlangeni is a jazz trumpeter and composer who has become a popular fixture on local and international stages since being selected for the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band in 2006. A gifted bandleader, Mlangeni has carved out a name for himself with various bands and ensembles, including the Amandla Freedom Ensemble, with which he has released two albums.
Mandla Mlangeni is a jazz trumpeter and composer born and raised in Soweto, Johannesburg. He’s a graduate of the University of Cape Town where he majored in music composition.
In 2006, Mlangeni was selected into the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band which toured South Africa and Sweden and performed at several jazz festivals including The Cape Town Jazz Festival, Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival and the Standard Bank Jazz Festival at National Arts Festival in Grahamstown now Makhanda.
Mlangeni has led various bands and ensembles that include, Tune Recreation Committee which was originally formed in 2007 with fellow UCT students; guitarist Keenan Ahrends and drummer Claude Couzen. The band recorded and released Voices of Our Vision. They performed together at the 18th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
His most renowned band is perhaps the Amandla Freedom Ensemble with whom he recorded and released his debut album Bhekizwe with in 2015. He followed up with Born To Be Black: A Celebration Of The Conscious Soul in 2017.
Besides being a respected young bandleader and composer, Mlangeni performs regularly as a session musician in various projects. He has played with celebrated musicians like Barney Rachabane, Hugh Masekela, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Mark Fransman, Louis Moholo and Dizu Plaatjies to name a few.
Megan-Geoffrey Prins is a pianist whose prodigious talent was evident early on – he had performed with all South Africa’s major orchestras by the age of 14. Today, while studying for his doctorate in music in Cleveland, he traverses the world as a solo performer and chamber musician, often returning home for concerts, teaching engagements and community outreach initiatives.
Megan-Geoffrey Prins is a pianist born and raised in Riversdale, a small enclave outside Mossel Bay. A prodigious talent, Prins made his concerto debut at the age of 11. By the time he turned 14 year old, he had performed concerti with all the major orchestras in South Africa including the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the University of Stellenbosch Symphony Orchestra.
Prins began his journey with the piano as a child. His mother inherited the instrument and had some music books in the house. Prins started playing around with it until his parents decided that he should get professional piano lessons. They drove between his home in Riversdale and Stellenbosch every few weeks so that he could take lessons at the university with a professor. This foundation made it possible for him eventually go to school and university in Stellenbosch. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Musical Arts at the Cleveland Institute of Music, in the US. He received his MMus from the Cleveland Institute of Music and his BMus from Stellenbosch University.
These days, Prins travels the world from the USA, Italy, France to Switzerland and Mozambique for solo performances. He is also an accomplished active chamber musician. He frequently collaborates with artists in the CIM community and for the Stars in the Classics concert series in Cleveland, OH. Prins served on the faculty of the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in 2016 and 2017. While studying in the USA, Prins returns to South Africa annually for concert performances, teaching engagements, and community outreach.
Thandi Ntuli was born in 1987 Soshanguve, one of the country’s largest townships, located north of South Africa’s administrative capital Tshwane. She is the niece of multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist of the historic Afro fusion band Harari, Selby Ntuli.
This rising star started playing the piano at the age of 4 but it was only in high school that she developed any real desire to become a professional musician.
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival is where Ntuli took flight. She was selected as a member of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band in 2013.
In 2014 she released her debut record, "The Offering". The record showcases Ntuli as a gifted pianist and imaginative composer. Her strength as band leader is reflected in the powerhouse of some of the best talents in the new generation of jazz musicians that it features. These include Sisonke Xonti (tenor saxophone), Mthunzi Mvubu (alto saxophone), Keenan Ahrends (guitar), Sphelelo Mazibuko (drums), Benjamin Jephta (double bass) and Spha Mdlalose (lead vocals). It also features the experienced hand of trumpeter, Marcus Wyatt.
She tours regularly and has played on local and international stages, including The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, The Standard Bank Jazz Festival and The Calabar International Jazz Festival in Nigeria. Ntuli has also played with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, along with Mike Campbell and the UCT Big Band.
She has also worked on projects with Judith Sephuma, Neo Muyanga and in 2017 was called upon by the American steel pan genius, Andy Narell at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival.
These straight ahead jazz collaborations are well balanced by her work in more experimental settings with the likes of electronic artist Jazzuelle, QB Smith and Sir LSG.
Her more recent collaboration with DJ Kenzhero and Tha Muzik is one of her most imaginative works. Together with Sphelelo Mazibuko on drums, Benjamin Jephta on bass and horn section that includes Senzo Ngcobo trombone, Sthe Bhengu on trumpet and Linda Sikhakhane on tenor saxophone, they call themselves The Rebirth of Cool. The band experiments with jazz, hip-hop, R&B and soul.
Jemma Kahn is a theatre and film maker born in Johannesburg. She studied Fine Art and Drama at Wits University. Shortly after graduating, she spent two years in Japan which has had a strong impact on the content and form of her work.
Her primary theatre focus is Japanese kamishibai or ‘paper theatre’ - a 12th Century highly visual storytelling medium. The kamishibai, as it is practiced today, evolved from a street theatre performance form that involves a narrator who travels around the small towns of Japan with sets of illustrated boards that he or she placed in a miniature stage-like device and narrated the story by changing each image to illustrate scenes.
As the only person to do so in South Africa, Kahn has been creating and performing kamishibai since 2009. All her kamishibai shows are intensely collaborative, bringing together a broad range of South African writers, illustrators and theatre makers.
Her 2012 show The Epicene Butcher and other stories for Consenting Adults, which was directed by John Trengove, was nominated for both a Fleur Du Cap Award and a Naledi Award in 2014. Internationally the show was awarded the Critic’s Choice at Amsterdam Fringe 2012, an Archangel Award at the Brighton festival in 2014 and was nominated for best theatre piece at FringeWorld Perth.
In 2013 she was named one of the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans in The Arts.
Her second kamishibai show We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants (2015 dir. Lindiwe Matshikiza) was workshopped as part of the 2015 Johannesburg Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale going on to travel extensively garnering both local and international acclaim.
More recently Kahn was part of The Centre for the Less Good Idea’s ﬁrst season in 2017, Johannesburg, where her ﬁrst art ﬁlm Somebody You’ve Already Painted Many Times from Memory was shown, in addition to her second ﬁlm Beast Fur, commissioned by The Centre.
In 2016 Kahn enlisted Jane Taylor as director for her autobiographical piece In bocca al lupo which is currently touring in South Africa’s independent theatre circuit.
Igshaan Adams was born in 1982 in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town and studied at the Ruth Prowse School of Art. Combining aspects of performance, weaving, sculpture and installation that draw upon his upbringing, his cross-disciplinary practice is an ongoing investigation into hybrid identity.
The 35-year old artist, who was born to Muslim parents and raised by Christian
grandparents in a community racially classified as ‘coloured’ under Apartheid, is an
observant but liberal Muslim who occupies a precarious place in his religious community
because of his homosexuality. As such, the quiet activism of his work speaks to his
experiences of racial, religious and sexual liminality, while breaking with the strong
representational or figurative convention found in recent South African art. In installations
that comprise of mixed media tapestries and sculptures, Adams uses the material and formal
iconographies of Islam and ‘coloured’ culture to develop a more equivocal, phenomenological approach towards these concerns and offer a novel, affective view of
Adams has been steadily building an international career as an artist. To date, he has held
seven solo exhibitions, at blank projects (Cape Town), A Tale of a Tub (Rotterdam),
Rongwrong Gallery (Amsterdam), Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town) and AVA Gallery (Cape
He has also participated in numerous group shows, both locally and internationally, including:
Adams has been selected for a number of artist residencies, among them the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland and the IAAB / Pro Helvetia residency, Basel, Switzerland.
He currently lives and works in Cape Town.
Musa Hlatshwayo is arguably one of the hardest working young dancers and choreographers in South Africa today. He was born and raised in Maphumulo in KwaZulu Natal.
Chuma Sopotela is a performance artist born and raised in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. She completed her Performer's Diploma in acting, voice and movement at the University of Cape Town in 2006
She is a 2017 KANNA award winning actress and a multi-award-winning actor, director, choreographer and performance artist. Her stage credits include Karoo Moose for which she received the 2007 Fleur du Cap Best Actress award, 2007 Aardklop Best ensemble cast award, 2008 Best Naledi Newcomer, Breakthrough and Best ensemble award.
Sopotela was also nominated for a 2008 Naledi Best Actress award and received five award nominations including the Montreal English theatre awards for her performance in Waiting for the Barbarians directed by international acclaimed Alexander Marine.
As a performance artist, Sopotela was one of the winners of the Spier Contemporary Award in 2008 for her collaboration in Unyawo Alunampumlo. She has been nominated twice for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Programme. Chuma currently holds the award from the Theatre Arts Admin for Coming Out with Courage for the work she did in Inkukhu Ibeke Iqanda, her first performance art piece was commissioned by the Zurich Theatre Spektakel. She has since produced three other works, her solo performance Ngokomzekeliso wakhe was seen at the Artscape Theatre Centre as part of the Easter Festival together with Limathu-mbantaka a collaboration with Michelle Collis (Architect) and John Cartwright (performer).
As a director Sopotela choreographed and directed An absent-presence a piece by Buhlebezwe Siwani and Thabo Doni. Her other work includes #HASHTAG with Unmute dance company trainees based at Artscape. This would see her working with Buhlebezwe again in their street performance of ‘Those Ghels’ also seen at the ICA Live Arts festival earlier in 2017.
Sopotela is passionate about teaching and learning. She believes in creating knowledge, education through art. This is an area of creative activisim she is looking to grow.
Guy Buttery is considered internationally “as one of the finest exponents of the acoustic guitar in the World.” He was born and raised in Durban and studied jazz music with Nibs van der Spuy before moving on to the Durban School of Music where he went under the tutelage of Leandros Stavrou.
The guidance was put to good use by the budding musician. At the age of 18 he released his debut album, When I Grow Up. The record went on to be nominated for ‘Best Newcomer’ and ‘Best Instrumental’ at the South African Music Awards (SAMA’s) making him the youngest nominee in the history of the event.
Buttery later won two SAMA’s in 2010 and again in 2014. He has received numerous other major national accolades including The Standard Bank Ovation Award for his live performances at the National Arts Festival.
Buttery was invited to perform his imaginative guitar based musical works with the 52-piece KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, dubbed “Africa’s greatest ensemble.” His solo performance was voted “Top Live Show” by The Cape Times. Buttery was named one of South Africa’s Top Young Personalities by the readers of the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
Over the years, 33- year-old Buttery has built an international music career that has seen him collaborate with some of the world’s leading musicians. He has worked with the likes of Dave Matthews, Jethro Tull, Vusi Mahlasela, multiple Grammy Award winner Will Ackerman, Salif Keita, Preston Reed, The Violent Femmes, Jon Gomm and countless others.
The hard-won international recognition as a multi-instrumentalist means that Buttery enjoys regular invitations to play sell-out performances all over the globe. The USA, UK, Australia, France, Brazil, and Italy have all welcomed him back year after year.
Cellist Abel Selaocoe (24) is a rising star in his field. He has pushed the cello’s traditional boundaries, moving into genres not previously associated with the instrument. While he has given concerto performances and solo classical recitals, he has also collaborated with beatboxers.
Bassist and composer Benjamin Jephta (23) has already made a name for himself as one of South Africa’s premier jazz double bass and electric bass players. He is involved in various original projects ranging from playing double bass in a free jazz orchestra to synth-bass in a pop band.
Thirty-one-year-old Beth Diane Armstrong is regarded as a leading sculptor of her generation. For the last number of years she has worked predominantly on monumental artworks made of mild and stainless steel.
Multimedia artist Dineo Seshee Bopape (35) uses experimental video montages, sound, found objects, photographs and sculptural installations in her work which has been shown in the US and Europe.
Multimedia artist Dineo Seshee Bopape (35) uses experimental video montages, sound, found objects, photographs and sculptural installations in her work which has been shown in the US and Europe.
Says Ruth Simbau, National Research Foundation/Rhodes Research Chair and member of the National Arts Festival Artistic Committee for Visual and Performance Art, “Dineo’s complex and often enigmatic work engages with performance, installation, video, digital montage, sound and text as she plays with our notions of space and time through an exploration of bodies and materials.
“The spaces that she creates range from physical spaces and immersive environments to social spaces, psychological spaces, imagined spaces and remembered spaces that are often fanciful and sometimes messy or confusing. “Within these spaces, fiction and ‘reality’ often blur, meaning is destabilised, and at times, excess eludes the possibility of representation. Deeply psychological, her work registers both trauma and playfulness, pushing viewers to raise questions rather than find answers as they are drawn into her performance and installation spaces.
“Bopape’s work has been recognised by a number of prestigious international art platforms, and she has produced work for the Marrakech Biennale, the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, the Pulchri Studio, The Hague, and the Bétonsalon Centre d’art et de recherche in Paris.
“The Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Performance Art draws from artists working in the visual arts, dance and live art, and as a relatively new award it registers the festival’s attempt to recognise and encourage intersections between art genres and modes of working,” she says.
Bopape was born in Polokwane, Limpopo, in 1981. She studied painting and sculpture at the Durban Institute of Technology, and graduated from De Ateliers in Amsterdam in 2007. In 2010 she completed an MFA at Columbia University in New York.
Bopape's work has been shown at the New Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, the Mart House Gallery in Amsterdam and the 12th Biennale de Lyon. Recent solo exhibitions include Untitled [of occult instability] (feelings), Palais de Tokyo (2016 and slow-co-ruption at the Hayward Gallery Project space, London (2015). Her work featured this year at the Bienale- Marrakech 6,- Not New Now, Morocco; curated by Reem Fadda and the 32nd Bienale Sao Paolo – Live Uncertainty, Jochen Volz (Gabi Ngcobo, Júlia Rebouças, Lars Bang Larsen e Sofía Olascoaga).
In 2015 she won the SmartArt award and was the runner up for the 2014 Rolex Art Award. She was the winner of the 2008 MTN New Contemporaries Award, and the recipient of a 2010 Columbia University Toby Fund Award.
Monageng “Vice” Motshabi (33) is a storyteller who has directed and written celebrated plays that confront a South African history and that aim to help audiences reclaim and affirm a sense of self.
Monageng “Vice” Motshabi (33) is a storyteller who has directed and written celebrated plays that confront a South African history and that aim to help audiences reclaim and affirm a sense of self.
Says Greg Homann, the 2014 SBYA Winner for Theatre and member of the National Arts Festival Artistic Committee for theatre: “Motshabi's work is audience-centred and is socially engaged, and his mode of creation is intensely collaborative. In essence, he is an enabler of local stories. Through his role as a creator and facilitator of theatre, audiences confront this country's history - these are confrontations that aim to help our ruptured society claim and recreate itself.”
Motshabi’s work has been seen at the Soweto Theatre, PACOFS, the Market Theatre, Artscape, Windybrow, at HIFA (the Harare International Festival of the Arts), the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and most recently in Mahikeng at the Mmabana Arts Centre.
In 2011 he directed a distinguished production of the local classic, Sizwe Bansi is Dead. Here, working with the cast of friend and fellow theatre-maker Omphile Molusi and alongside veteran actor Arthur Molepo, Motshabi's fresh interpretation of the iconic play connected with young and new audiences. His production played at PACOFS, Windybrow and two seasons at the Market Theatre.
In Book of Rebellations, which he directed and co-wrote with Kgafela oa Magogodi, he fused music and dramatic action to tell a futuristic story of corruption and greed in a post-apocalyptic setting, and in 2015 with The Story I am About to Tell he revisited the TRC period illuminating ways to rethink and reimagine an understanding of that period of the country's past.
Other significant works include the stage adaptation of Dambudzo Marechera's Pub Stories that he wrote and directed for the Savanna Trust in Harare, and directing Molusi's new play, Mogatapele.
He is currently working on the publication of a collection of South African plays. He has a longstanding relationship to the Market Lab where he has served in various capacities including as dramaturge for the Zwakala Festival.
With Twist Theatre in Durban he has lead processes of group collaboration with younger emerging artists resulting in the development of at least five new South African plays.
As a mentor and educator Motshabi has worked with the Gauteng Theatre Practitioners’ Ishashalazi, Twist Theatre Projects in KZN, Savannah Trust in Harare and the Market Theatre Laboratory among others.
Born in White City Jabavu, Soweto, on November 18, 1983, Thandazile Radebe (33) is one of the country’s leading contemporary choreographers and dancers. Her ability to perform and choreograph witty, yet emotionally charged dance works dealing with universal socio-economic issues has allowed her to explore both conventional theatre and alternative spaces. She has toured Africa, the UK and Europe.
Says Adrienne Sichel, veteran theatre journalist and former member of the National Arts Festival Artistic Committee who nominated Radebe: “Since she first set foot on a formal stage as a 10-year -old dancing with Arco Dance Theatre, at Dance Umbrella, Radebe has had a love affair with theatre dance and her audiences. As an independent artist in the current harsh funding environment she will have a lot of battles to fight (and win) but she certainly deserves the accolade of Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance just as Orlin, Sabbagha, Maqoma, Masilo and Mbuli have before her,” she says.
It is a sentiment echoed by Gregory Maqoma, member of the National Arts Festival Artistic Committee for dance: “Thandazile was selected thanks to her incredible diverse approach to movement and choreography. She is certainly one of the pioneering female choreographers in South Africa. Her work is an ode to the country’s cultural and political heritage, often dealing with complex issues and constantly stepping out of the comfort zones and discovering new and interesting artistic offerings. She is also consistent in her practice of her art and functioning as an independent artist while still managing to perform and make art.”
Radebe began her professional dance career in 1997 at the Soweto Dance Theatre with the late Jackie Mbuyiselwa. In 2003 she graduated as a teacher at Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) and danced with the company until 2013.
This award-winning dancer and seasoned teacher has evolved into a choreographer who takes risks not only in conventional performance spaces but outdoors as well. Whether it is in Diepsloot, or at the OR Tambo Memorial Precinct, in Wattvile (in The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative’s inaugural My Body My Space festival), or, in Cape Town, at the Infecting the City Festival, Radebe has a knack for harnessing, critiquing and then transforming the environment.
But it is on stage that Thandazile is truly proving her choreographic mettle and vision; from her solo Inception (2011) to Ngizwise (2014/2015) her acclaimed collaboration with Canadian dance maker Jennifer Dallas and MIDM’s male dancers.
Lingering, her 2015/2016 installation dance work created and performed with Teresa Phuti Mojela, was lauded at Dance Umbrella 2016. Radebe’s choreography was a major addition to Mosali EO U ’Neileng Eena, the Sesotho play co-produced by The Market Theatre and Soweto Theatre this September.
Having worked in creation process and/or performed for acclaimed choreographers such as Sylvia Glasser, Robyn Orlin, PJ Sabbagha, Gregory Maqoma, Dada Masilo and Themba Mbuli (2016), Radebe is taking that knowledge and transcending those influences to keep creating her own original, often feisty, always intelligent, choreographic signature.
As managing director of Song and Dance Works, she recently won the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice for Choreography, sponsored by the Market Theatre.
Radebe is passionate about collaborative ventures, encouraging the positive and visible presence of role models for the youth, development and empowerment of women and the passing on of oral history.
Standard Bank has been a presenting sponsor of the biggest annual celebration of Born in Jerusalem in 1988, Avigail Bushakevitz's family moved to South Africa when she was one. Wanting to keep up with her older brothers, Avigail began playing piano when she was five, venturing into violin at eight.
Determined to nurture her undeniable talent, her mother, Leonore, used to drive her the 400-odd kilometres from their home in George to Stellenbosch, and later Cape Town, for lessons with Professor Jack de Wet every fortnight. 'I owe everything to him,' she has said of one of South Africa's most legendary teachers.
Homeschooled so that she could keep up with the rigorous practice routine required by De Wet, Avigail registered for a Bachelor of Music with Unisa in 2006, and received a scholarship from the Ackerman Foundation to study at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York a year later. She was one of only two students that violin teacher Sylvia Rosenberg took on that year. 'She has phenomenal musical instincts, and I am extremely lucky to be her student,' Avigail said of Rosenberg in an interview with ClassicSA. 'She is one of the greatest influences on my life.'
At Julliard, Avigail worked as a teaching assistant in ear training, developing a fascination with the different ways music students hear. She went on to graduate with a BMus in 2010, and received her Master of Music in 2012. While in New York, she performed at Carnegie
Hall with the Juilliard Orchestra under conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, an experience she lists as one of the highlights of her young career. She moved to Tel Aviv in 2013, where she initiated her artist diploma studies under Hagai Shaham at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music.
Avigail has been winning competitions since primary school. In 2009, she played Sibelius's Violin Concerto with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and won the Unisa National Strings Competition. She also won the Samro Foundation's Overseas Scholarships Competition in 2012. In 2013, she was awarded first prize in the UNO Competition in Jerusalem. She regularly plays in a duo with her pianist brother, Ammiel. Last year, they won an international chamber music competition in Catalonia, and included in the prize was a 15-recital tour of Spain.
She continues to build her concert experience by playing around the world, not least as a member of Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in their tour of Spain and Abu Dhabi last year. Now based in Germany, where she is a member of the Essenz Streichquartett in Berlin and the 1st violins of the Konzerthausorchester, she often returns to South Africa to give recitals, usually with Ammiel.
'The many opportunities that have arisen simply from being South African - including winning the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year - make me a very lucky girl and a fortunate musician,' Avigail says. 'I have met so many other incredible violinists who grew up in New York or Berlin or Tel Aviv, who have not once had the opportunity to play a concerto with an orchestra, whereas my country has blessed me with many such occasions.'
Born in Cape Town in 1987, Jade Bowers is a director and designer who experiments with physical style and conceptual form to make theatre that is fuelled by invention and creativity.
Jade has been listed as one of online magazine Afripop's 'Five Female Theatre Makers in South Africa You Should Know'. She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Drama and Sociology from the University of Cape Town, and received her Honours degree in Theatre Design and Directing for the Stage from University of the Witwatersrand in 2014.
Jade, who runs her own production company, currently works at Dalro as a theatrical rights administrator, and was previously the resident stage manager at the University ofJohannesburg. In 2011, she was involved in UJ's Reading Gay and THATSOGAY theatre festivals, as well as being part of the team that staged Arts and Culture head Ashraf
Johaardien's adaption of K Sello Duiker's The Quiet Violence of Dreams. She has been the showcase curator of the Wits 969 Festival and director of the Wits Arts and LiteratureExperience (WALE). She produced, directed and designed Salaam Stories for the 10th anniversary revival of Johaardien's autobiographical Salaam. This demanding solo work deals with religion, sexuality and South African cultural history.
The work Jade produces 'represents her interests in the intersections between culture, identity and sexuality. This is fully explored in South African theatre and it makes her daring,' Afripop says. For example, the staging of Clora, a comedy/cabaret show staged at PopArt in Johannesburg's Maboneng Precinct, rose temperatures around homophobia and intolerance.
Jade has been recognised for her ability to revisit South African texts in an inventive yet deeply respectful way. Her beautiful and compelling reworking of Rehane Abrahams's script
What the Water Gave Me earned a Silver Ovation Award at the 2014 National Arts Festival, as well as a Naledi Award nomination in 2015 in the category, Best Production: Cutting Edge. Arts writer Adrienne Sichel says Jade is 'not only an actors' director, but one that has 'the ability to ignite audiences visually and intellectually with imaginative, highly intuitive, yet astutely crafted, theatre making'.
Her collaboration with Robin Malan on iHAMLET - a 60-minute production of Shakespeare's longest play - garnered a Naledi Award nomination for best theatre sound design in 2013. She received the Arts and Culture Trust's ImpACT award for theatre in 2014.
'Theatre can be a cruel task-master and its slings and arrows are not for the faint-hearted - especially when one has an odd affinity for obscure work as I occasionally (quite often) do,'Jade says. 'My journey as a maker and practitioner of live theatre has been marked with as many challenges as it has been blessed with opportunities - I am profoundly grateful for both … The common denominator through all of this has always been the telling of unique stories and, to me, the only thing more powerful than the stories we are told, are the stories that we choose to tell and how we choose to tell them.'
Mohau Modisakeng is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily as a sculptor who moves into performance, video and photography as the concept requires. He was born in 1986, and grew up in an informal settlement in Soweto.
In 2009, he graduated from the Michealis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, and went on to complete his Masters in 2012. 'My work has always presented a channel for me to engage my mind and my spirit in something reflective and introspective,' he told the Mail & Guardian when he was named as one of their Young South Africans to Watch in 2013.
In just a few years, he has notched up a large number of exhibitions at galleries here and internationally, including: Stevenson, Cape Town; VOLTA NY, New York; the Saatchi Gallery, London; the Dak'Art Biennale, Dakar; and Focus 11, Basel in 2011 -the same year he won the Sasol New Signatures Award.
Last year, he had solo exhibitions at Kunstraum Innsbruck in Austria and at Big Pond Artworks in Munich, Germany. His work was exhibited in Lagos, Nigeria, at the Archer Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, and in Cape Town at the Chavonnes Battery Museum in partnership with Zeitz MOCAA.
In a review of Mohau's solo exhibition Ditaolo at Brundyn+ gallery in Cape Town two years ago, Athi Mongezeleli Joja writes, 'As Modisakeng has repeatedly remarked, his work reflects on narratives of trauma, violence and race - but not in any direct autobiographical sense. That isn't to say he suspends his personal experience: rather, he locates it within a larger frame of black existentiality.' This double meaning runs through his work, where he substitutes, displaces and confl ates historical experiences between the personal and the collective.
His ambitious video work, Inzilo (isiZulu for 'mourning' or 'fasting'), is a perfect example of this affecting doubleness. Produced in association with Samsung as a special project for the 2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair, it was also selected as part of the South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale last year. In Inzilo, as in many of his films and images, Modisakeng's body occupies centre stage. He enacts a mourning ritual, all the while throwing a burnt, ashy substance into the air. 'The initiate seems to draw the material for his transition from within his own body … In the absolute purity and focus of the moment, Modisakeng is turned inwards but gesturing outward, undergoing a mysterious transformation that is at once a private ceremony and a public declaration,' reads the SA Pavilion catalogue.
Meanwhile, Mohau says his work is evolving towards the theatrical. Other recent work involves a series of events that are organised as public interventions or performances at various locations around Johannesburg inner city.
Mohau lives and works between Johannesburg and Cape Town. His work is included in public collections such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery; the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town; Unisa in Pretoria; the Saatchi Gallery in London; as well as significant collections such as Zeitz MOCAA and the New Church Collection in Cape Town
Siyavuya Makuzeni is a trombone player, vocalist, lyricist and songwriter well known for her uniquely experimental, edgy, yet pure intonation. Born in 1982 in the Eastern Cape, Siya grew up singing in the choir and playing recorder before picking up the trombone while at Sterling High School in East London.
'The influence of Xhosa music and jazz is the foundation of my musical beginnings, and has helped me to shape my own voice or individual expression,' she told Struan Douglas in The Story of South African Jazz.
Her genre-busting style is influenced by drum and bass, hip hop, traditional Xhosa music and electronica. She uses vocal pedals to manipulate her voice, creating soundscapes and backing loops in her live performances.
Throughout high school, Siya participated in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, an annual programme at the National Arts Festival that sees South Africa's jazz students vying for a spot in the Festival's top bands: the National School's Big Band, the National Youth Big Band and, ultimately, the National Youth Jazz Band. Siya was consecutively selected for all three categories, recording with the National Youth Jazz Band in 2001. She also featured in Zim Ngqawana's Big Band tour to East London in 1999, and played for the East Cape Big Band for a few years.
Knowing that she was destined to follow a creative path, she enrolled to study music and drama at Rhodes University in 2000, before deciding to focus on music at Pretoria Technikon(now Tshwane University of Technology) with a BMus Jazz degree.
Siya regularly collaborates with South African musicial royalty, including Marcus Wyatt. They first met in Grahamstown when Siya was a teenager and have collaborated regularly ever since - most recently on Maji Maji - In The Land Of Milk and Honey, the new album from
Wyatt's SA jazz collective, Language 12. In a review of the 'intellectually stimulating' album for the M&G, Siya is described as 'a majestic vocalist, rich in tone, expansive in range, and wise in interpretation'.
A session musician and voice-over artist when not performing live, Siya has lent her songwriting skills to albums by well-known artists. She has performed with Carlo Mombelli's Prisoners of Strange, worked with Themba Mkhize, McCoy Mrubata, Frank Opperman, Wendy Oldfield, Tlale Makhene, Khaya Mahlangu, Sibongile Khumalo and many others. Her live collaborations include performances with William Kentridge and Phillip Miller in Dancing with Dada. To top it all, she is also a band leader of her own experimental rock band, IppYFuz.
'Siya's singing is lyrical and inventive,' Douglas writes. 'From the highest pitched to low, soothing notes, she adds a touch of sophistication to any melody, while her scatting is adventurous.'
Siya tours extensively, featuring in the line-up of some of the world's biggest jazz events, from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to the Stockholm Jazz Festival. In 2005, she was awarded a grant to attend Fabrica Musica, Benetton Foundation's 'applied creativity laboratory' just outside Treviso in Italy. The experience culminated with a multimedia theatre concert in Brisbane, Australia, a year later.
The National Arts Festival's 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art, 30- year-old Athi-Patra Ruga, explores and pushes boundaries between fashion, performance and contemporary art by creating works that reveal the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics.
The National Arts Festival's 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art, 30- year-old Athi-Patra Ruga, explores and pushes boundaries between fashion, performance and contemporary art by creating works that reveal the body in relation to structure, ideology and politics.
Born in 1984 in the Transkei, growing up between Umtata and being schooled in East London, Ruga was influenced by the global metropolitan mix of people who had moved to the area at the time. Growing up in a creatively-aware family, his mother worked in radio dramas and his father a presenter on Radio Transkei, Ruga's influence on performance was prevalent. He recalls being taken to the station and creating the sound effects on radio dramas as a little boy.
"My father used to take me to the studios and I'd be the guy that made the sounds. They used to send me to make the walking on gravel sound, or the shutting of the door, and I think at that point I realised one could use tools to create an alternative reality, which was great for my life as well, because I created alternative personas to be able to fit in, to be able to validate my difference from the populace," says Ruga.
The sense of globalism in his hometown was the platform for which Ruga used in his art form to reach across people of all colours and levels of social classes and breakdown their stereotypical views on race, sexuality and gender identity. Through his work, Ruga created characters that could combat these challenges, and ass that: "I think because I would be seen as being a victim of people's non acceptance of my identity - being a gay man, being a black man, being a gay non-Christian - I felt that I had this need to remedy this resistance and so I created characters that are a cure to these challenges because they are always changing and their objectives are in flux."
In 1999 he went to the Belgravia Art College in East London for art classes, which was where he first used his body as a tool to communicate in art. Following his creative process, the notion of costume through history and the body of a woman in art history became his means of communicating his views on integration and acceptance. Upon completing his high school education, Ruga moved to Johannesburg and was awarded a scholarship to study fashion design at the Gordon Flack Davidson Academy of Design.
"Fashion with its performativity could actually join in with the history of art, and the history of fashion and just how clothes make one behave within society, how one changes their behaviour when they wear a certain thing or how they show their behaviour sometimes, and this became such a beautiful union," says Ruga as he sheds light on integrating his passion for fashion design with art.
Ruga's large scale works are a combination of performance through processions and interventions, he finds the procession is a way in which one can communicate with the audience on an extended level. The Future White Woman of Azania - an ongoing series of performances engaging new definitions of nationhood in relation to the autonomous body - is predominant in these processions. Other themes in Ruga's works are the disillusioned utopia, racial ideologies and the body as a communicative tool. His tapestries represent a counter proposal to ideas of nationhood and belonging, he elaborates on the artistic process when creating both processions and tapestries "The first step I take is to cultivate my visual language, the influence in what I am making and a means of creation is also collaboration and building a sense of creative community. What's been important to me has been showing my work and not sitting on it because this always puts an onus on me to always step up the quality of my work, the craftsmanship and criticality."
Ruga was featured in the Phaidon book Younger Than Jesus, a directory of over 500 of the world's best artists under the age of 33 and his works form part of private, public and museum collections nationally and internationally. Among these moments Ruga's most memorable is being invited to Performa, being part of Imaginary Fact at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
Ruga reflects on one of his career's highlights at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown where he worked with photographer Mikhael Subotzky on a performance in the township and reminisces that it was memorable because "of the nature of collaboration itself and the walk I took through this small township outside Grahamstown which was cathartic because I was able to confront my history of walking the township as someone who doesn't fit in. I, of course, walked it as the The Future White Women of Azania because my characters are more robust than I am."
At the moment he is working on his critically acclaimed The FWWOA Saga and will be taking part in the 1.54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London concurrently with the presentation of his latest Exile Series of tapestries at the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (FIAC) in Paris. Apart from entering a production for his 2015 National Arts Festival debut, Ruga is working on his ninth and tenth solo show to open in Paris and Cape Town respectively. As a mentor he is working on the Adult Contemporary projects which is a series of exhibitions that bring to the fore the country's young unsigned art talent.
"It means I am joining a pantheon of South African icons that I have always looked up to, people who subsequently would go on to be part of the south African visual arts landscape" says Ruga on winning the award.
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Visual Art), Musa Ngqungwana (Music), Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz), and Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre).
Born in Cape Town and raised in Pretoria, 27-year-old Christiaan Olwagen has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist in the category of Theatre.
From as early as seven, Olwagen made his debut performance on stage when he was cast in the primary school biblical revue. His passion for the theatre meant dedicating his free time as a boy to after school drama classes and when he reached high school he majored in the subject. It was there, at the age of 14, when he wrote and directed his first play. Olwagen went on to study Drama at Stellenbosch University and in 2008 won the Fleur Du Cap for Most Promising Student Award for his portrayal of the "Emcee" in Marthinus Basson's production of the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret. Basson became his mentor as Olwagen completed his Honours in Acting and Directing.
Olwagen's experience with the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown began in 2010 when he made waves with his first professional debut Woza Andries? - an appropriation of the play Woza Albert! Olwagen's work gained national acclaim and won him numerous awards including the Rosalie van der Gught Award for Best Director. He was invited to stage the play at several venues in Cape Town, Aardklop Festival in Potchefstroom and the Vryfees Festival in Bloemfontein.
As an actor, writer and director, Olwagen has garnered experience in short plays, cabaret, comedy, drama, puppet theatre, musicals and physical theatre. He shares on the challenges saying: "Directing is a more natural process, writing is difficult, [and] it's a love hate relationship. I find a piece of classic theatre like The Seagull by Chekhov, and love it so much, but a part of me wants to tailor it for our audience, to use that classical piece as a host, and then tell a version of it, setting it in a South African, or a very specific context."
Theatre guru Olwagen co-founded a theatre collective with fellow post-graduate students, Polony, in 2012. The collective has staged five successful plays, with the most recent Wessel Pretorius' Waterpas winning the Kanna for Best Comedy. Olwagen explains, "As a theatre maker, I have a responsibility to make a piece people want to watch but that is also interesting to me, it's the balance between those two elements."
When asked about the driving force behind communicating his message through his craft he says that creativity depends on the connection point. "Making a connection between things that normally wouldn't have been next to each other and combining elements to find that balance," says Olwagen. "I am fascinated about the relationship between high art and low art. I try to make a piece of art that is relevant, and still find some kind of entry point between what you find interesting and what an audience finds interesting. It's problematic too because it's not about dumbing it down, it's about combining those elements, making new hybrids, the high/low art form. We're making theatre for people and we need to take that into consideration," he adds.
More recently Olwagen has ventured into film. He directed and wrote the screenplay for the short film Toevlug in 2013 which saw it win Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Short Film at the KykNet Silwerskermfees. Following this he directed Albee's Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And he is currently working on Chekhov's The Seagull starring Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo.
Early this year Olwagen wrote Dogma, an autobiographical account of his parents' personal struggle with organised religion when his father, a NG Kerk reverend, got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. The production has since received 6 Kanna Award nominations and went on to win Best Production and Best Debut Production.
"As an artist winning this award means a great deal to me. To share the honour with artists whom I admire immensely, including my mentor Marthinus Basson. It's a dream come true. The Standard Bank Young Artist Award has launched many careers. Not just locally but internationally. I think it is incredibly important to have a global artistic dialogue and for the longest time the South African voice has been lacking. It looks and feels like it's starting to change. I think we owe institutions, like Standard Bank, who invest in art, a great deal of debt because where would we be without them? Thank you Standard Bank for this wonderful, life changing platform."
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Visual Art), Musa Ngqungwana (Music), Athi-Patra Ruga (Performance Art), and Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz).
Cape Town-based visual artist Kemang Wa Lehulere has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art.
Growing up in Gugulethu, 30-year-old Wa Lehulere was surrounded by a very creative family as a child. His mother was a singer and his cousins were script writers, directors and actors in film and theatre.
Despite having won five awards including the first International Tiberius Art Award Dresden, launched in 2013 as a tribute to outstanding contemporary artists outside of Europe; having had four solo exhibitions; 50 group exhibitions, and six residencies he remains humble in his achievements and emphasises the importance of hard work, exposure to the arts and collaboration: "The most important thing for me has been to read as much as possible, interacting with other artists, going to see shows, going to the theatre and watching a lot if independent films. It is also important to keep working and that doesn't mean producing physical things but researching and writing as well."
Performer, photographer and filmmaker, initially a theatre aspirant working with the Cape Town Theatre Laboratory, Wa Lehulere enrolled in a performing arts course at CAP (Community Arts Project) and decided to change to a Visual Arts course because he wanted a challenge. Here, he garnered experience in drawing, painting and sculpture. From there his interest moved to new media and film and recalls: "Initially I became drawn to works which dealt with identity politics, because I could relate. I looked a lot at Berni Searle, Tracey Rose, and Thando Mama. That kind of work became my interest, instead of painting. Even though I have continued painting and drawing throughout, that was what drew me in, quite strongly."
Co-founding the arts collective the Gugulective, and collaborating with the Centre for Historical Re-enactments and the NON-NON Collective, Wa Lehulere's focuses on initiating conversations in the arts, particularly bringing the arts into the townships AND making it accessible to the masses.
Wa Lehulere's visual artworks range across media where he is particular about not conforming to one medium and draws on a range of subjects by being open to the unknown. His ethos The Foot Has No Nose - a Xhosa idiom, meaning one doesn't know where one's journey is going, or where one is headed is closely linked to this. Theatre also influences his works by using props to change the traditional meaning of spatial relations on stage or in a gallery. He explores themes of boundaries: portals between the living and the dead, the past and the present; segregation, discrimination and identity. Wa Lehulere uses iconic objects as reference points to represent these themes. The longevity of his works are influenced by the medium in which he presents them: from using charcoal and chalk to create works, playing on the idea of preservation.
His long-standing exposure to theatre has crafted his most memorable moment at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. "I first went to the festival with my cousin Ithumeleng Wa Lehulere with a play he directed called Echoes of Our Footsteps, one in which Keith, my other cousin, was acting in too. Traveling with a large cast, having spent a lot of time in rehearsals and watching the play come to life at the Festival was very special to me."
Recently Wa Lehulere was part of a group exhibition Do it at the Michaelis Galleries in Cape Town.
"I am excited that my work will be traveling to different venues and cities around the country." Says Wa Lehulere on receiving the award.
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre), Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Musa Ngqungwana (Music), Athi-Patra Ruga (Performance Art), and Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz).
Born in the Vaal Triangle, South of Johannesburg, dancer, choreographer, teacher and mentor- Luyanda Sidiya (31) - has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance.
His interest in dance started as early as primary school when he saw a drama production presented to the community by an outreach programme. Already at that early stage he knew this was his calling. Being a dancer was firmly seeded in Sidiya as he joined the group and gained insight into modern and traditional dance. A few years later the interest within the group grew and in 1996 they were introduced to contemporary dance and choreography at The Dance Factory in Newtown, Johannesburg. Through weekend and holiday classes Sidiya learned about choreographers who were heading up the Moving Into Dance Mophatong group and he reflects: "My world was now dance and choreography and that fulfilled me deeply as this was a discovery and a realisation that this it is no hobby to certain individuals but a life, career and work."
From there, Sidiya went through many auditions to be part of various dance schools and his persistence, perseverance and dedication paid off when in 1999 he was selected to do an intense teachers training course at the 2000 Community Dance project at Moving Into Dance Mophatong. His works are largely influenced by socio-political issues, and he allows the works to shape him through his choreographic process.
When Sidiya is not choreographing, he spends his time teaching, pitching on new projects and planning for festivals and performances. He has always emphasised the importance of giving back to the community which has played a consistent part in his career, and goes as far back as 1998 when he gave classes at Groenpunt Juvenile Prison with the hope of giving the young boys a new perspective in life. He now shares his experience as a dancer and a choreographer with dance students, which in turn motivates his career.
Sidiya has travelled extensively with his work to places including; Botswana, The United Kingdom, The United States, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Italy and Luxembourg. While working abroad for Moving into Dance Mophatong he facilitated workshops through a range of dance companies and universities, specifically in the Afrofusion style, and went on to become the rehearsal director, working on dance pieces with professionals and students alike.
Among the works he has performed in, a solo work choreographed by Vincent Mantsoe in 2004 for the Kuopio International Festival in Finland was one of his most memorable. Sidiya spent three years in the UK working with ACE Dance and Music Company as a dancer, and went on to become a rehearsal director for the company. Following this, in 2007, Sidiya won the award for the Most Outstanding Dancer in the Contemporary Style for the Dance Umbrella Festival. Since then he has worked on a number of pieces for the festival. Among some of his most esteemed accolades, Sidiya was a dance captain for the 2010 World Cup FIFA Opening Concert. In 2012 he choreographed the work Umnikelo which was part of the double bill Mayhem winning the Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown that year.
Between being a dancer, choreographer and running a business, Sidiya spends evenings and weekends with his wife, who is also a dancer, and his two daughters.
The Vuyani Dance Theatre Artistic Director had his latest production 7 pillars premiere at the 2014 Dance Umbrella Festival as part of the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival and has begun working on his debut piece for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown for 2015. Sidiya has fond memories of performing at the Festival that extend back to 2008 where he says he had the most exciting experience performing with the ACE Dance and Music Company after being away for three and a half years. "I performed a production titled Skin which had great reviews in the CUE newspaper," he recalls.
Sidiya, expresses his gratitude to Standard Bank by adding: "I am happy to be one of the recipients among giants that have carried this award. This award to me epitomises the excellent work that young artists are doing and I take it as recognition, yet a key to open a door of possibilities."
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Visual Art), Musa Ngqungwana (Music), Athi- Patra Ruga (Performance Art), and Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz).
Baritone Musa Ngqungwana (30) has been named by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music.
Musa Ngqungwana grew up in the township Zwide in Port Elizabeth with a passion for performance at a young age, taking part in small theatre productions in the township. Being brought up by his mother and grandmother, Ngqungwana had a rich and interesting childhood taking part in a variety of activities widely ranging from rugby to reading. From primary school he sang in choirs, which pre-empted his career as a singer.
He knew he wanted to better his life and his circumstances of living in a township and reflects: "From a very young age I was driven by my focus not to be a statistic and to achieve whatever was possible. This hard journey has always propelled me to always rise above any challenges, knowing very well that I have crossed harder bridges."
His first introduction to opera was as a teenager when he saw a 1978 video performance of Die Zauberflote where Sir Willard White played the role of Die Sprecher. He says "I was sold by the notion of a black man doing a major role. The art form was a novelty to me and I was fascinated by the German language, the costumes, the singing and scenery".
After school Ngqungwana studied Building Science at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for one year, until he pursued his passion for music. While his grandmother had hopes of him becoming a doctor or engineer Ngqungwana felt strongly about studying music.
He continued singing as a distraction from the difficult situation he was in and started an encore ensemble. Through support and encouragement Ngqungwana auditioned for a scholarship at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School. In 2004 he was given a full bursary and his talent was acknowledged. Ngqungwana won his first award in 2007 for the vocal competition held by the university. He gained a Performer's Diploma in Opera and Bachelor of Music Honours Degree in Performance (Magna Cum Laude) from the University. He then received a scholarship to study at the prestigious opera institution, Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA), in Philadelphia and in May 2014 he graduated with an Artist Diploma.
Ngqungwana has won numerous awards throughout his career to date. His accolades extend from Cape Town's Schock Prize to Vienna's International Hans Gabor Belvedere Competition, as well as an impressive scope of competitions and prizes by Opera Index in New York City.
Ngqungwana has worked with Opera legends such as Angelo Gobbato, Marco Armiliato, Tito Capobianco and Kamal Khan and many more. He has played numerous roles and his most memorable include the catalogue aria from Don Giovanni as Don Giovanni by Mozart, Figaro in The Barber of Seville by Baudron and Puccini's Turandot where he played the role of Ping.
Currently, Ngqungwana is working on his debut role as Colline with the Washington National Opera; Zuniga with the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo and Friedhold with the Washington Concert Opera. He has begun planning for his performance at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown for his 2015 debut performance, he elaborates on the festival saying: "I always longed to be part of the festival, but not once did I ever think I would be one of the people who would receive this prestigious award. Therefore this is very humbling for me".
Spending most days rehearsing for performances and nights studying his notes and reading the score for the next opera, Ngqungwana spends the rest of his time exploring the cities he performs in. He loves reading and reflecting through writing and has recently written his first memoir Odyssey of an African Opera Singer. From Zwide Township to the World Stage.
Ngqungwana, who is currently based abroad performing in The United States and Europe, thanks Standard Bank for his award. "It is a recognition from home soil that folks are watching us and wishing for us to rise to ever great spheres of achievement. I am grateful to Standard Bank for their generous support of artists, they have been doing this for 30 years. In this global decline for the support of the arts, we are incredibly fortunate to have such an esteemed bank and organisation continue investing in the festival, ensuring that we continue growing and ploughing as South African artists the world over. I thank you Standard Bank from the bottom of my heart."
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Kemang Wa Lehulere (Visual Art), Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre), Athi-Patra Ruga (Performance Art), and Nduduzo Makhathini (Jazz).
Johannesburg-based jazz pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (32) has been awarded by the National Arts Festival as the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz.
Growing up in the small town uMgungungdlovo in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, Makhathini was surrounded by music as a child. Coming from a very musical family- his mother was a pianist and his father a guitarist- he was exposed to a range of music including traditional Zulu music. He recalls turning the knob on the radio until it reached the end, where he would listen to Indian music. He was part of the choir at school and would sing at church, and until he completed school, his voice was his instrument. It was only after High School that he started to study jazz piano.
"I reached a point where my voice limited me from expressing the music, and that's when I focused on the piano".
He feels his career has developed in what he describes as an organic process, starting with his upbringing and the influence of his mother being his first piano teacher. "Over the years I have learnt that if you submit yourself to the music or whatever your dream is then mother-nature has a way of taking care of the rest". After school, in 2001, he went to study music at the Durban Institute of Technology. Here he learnt under the guidance of Neil Gonzalvez, Demi Fernandez and Susan Berry.
In 2006 Makhathini performed with voice featuring Marcus Wyatt, Herbie Tsoaeli, Morabo Molajele and Sydney Mnisi. Following that he toured Europe with internationally acclaimed Simphiwe Dana and shared stages with Herbie Hancock and Miriam Makeba - to name a few - at the Avo Session Jazz Festival in Basel. In 2008 Makhathini joined legendary jazz saxophonist Zim Ngqawana's Zimology Quartet and toured with them throughout Europe and the United States. Following that, in 2009 he joined Carlo Mombeli's band and continued to tour with the Zimology Quartet. He has also worked with musicians to the likes of Andile Yanana, Kesivan Naidoo, Sidney Mavundla, Ayanda Sikade, Omagugu, Feya Feku, McCoy Mrubata, Mthunzi Mvubu and Malcolm Jiyane, Xolani Sithole, Mbusi Khoza, Lindiwe Maxolo, Tumi Mogorosi, Sisa Sophazi and Jonathan Crossley. He performed in Swaziland with Adam Glasser featuring Concord Nkabinde.
He has performed at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Jazz in the Cradle at Nirox, The Lagos Jazz Series Nigeria and Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Europe.
Aside from his impressive experience on both the local and global jazz scene composing, producing and assembling music, Makhathini is a teacher and a philosopher. This father of three, attributes his role on the music scene as one of a translator. He feels the music comes from an external source and he is the path through which it is communicated to the audience. "My family also has a gift of healing and music was the only way I could best express and celebrate these gifts."
Makhathini reminisces about spending time with Malcolm Braff and Ayanda Sikade at The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, discussing a shared connection between music and spirituality. He has fond memories of the festival and reflects: "I first went to National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2005 spending two weeks just playing music. I had an amazing time, jamming every night." The following year Makhathini joined musicians in the jazz line-up at the festival. "Collaborating with people makes it possible for us to go out there and do what we can" he elaborates.
Nduduzo Mhakhatini has produced a number of albums over recent years with acclaimed jazz musicians. The album Zilindile with Omagugu won Metro FM's Best Contemporary Jazz in 2013, and the album Time with Lindiwe Maxolo was a SAMA nominee. Mother Tongue was his first album of his own work. It is about his home language of Zulu, its traditions and how his mother introduced sounds and songs to him before the language of Zulu itself. "Mother tongue speaks of my childhood memories, my heritage and trying to define my history, my present, and my future. It is dedicated to my mom." Sketches of Tomorrow he attributes to his children and is about painting pictures of sounds to come. Makhathini is currently working on a project called Listening to the Ground which is a follow up to Mother Tongue.
Makhathini, who spends his days practicing, listening to music and running to rehearsals, says "The award means a lot to me and it came as a surprise. I am very grateful to the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards for the opportunity they give to artists to share their story. For an artist it doesn't get better than being given a platform to express oneself, and for this I am grateful."
The other recipients of the 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Luyanda Sidiya (Dance), Kemang wa Lehulere (Visual Art), Musa Ngqungwana (Music), Athi Patra- Ruga (Performance Art), and Christiaan Olwagen (Theatre).
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