Nominees for the 2008 MTN New Contemporaries Award announced
From 2001 the MTN New Contemporaries Award has been held approximately every two years. MTN appoints a curator who selects four emerging artists that he/she feels will define visual arts in South Africa in years to come. From this pool of finalists an independent judging committee chooses the winner. This year Melissa Mboweni is the curator, following in the footsteps of Khwezi Gule (2006), Kathryn Smith (2003) and Clive Kellner (2001). Mboweni describes the process of nominating the four finalists as an '...an exciting expedition' which started two months ago with a national search that included tours to studios and galleries as well as in-depth discussions with artists.
Past winners are Mlungisi Zondi (2006), Thando Mama (2003) and Thembinkosi Goniwe (2001). This year Dineo Bopape, Daniel Halter, Michael MacGarry and Themba Shibase go up against each other for the honour. Though Mboweni selected the artists purely on merit, the finalists do share some broad conceptual concerns.
Bopape collects and assembles personal objects that have guided, and been a part of, her everyday experience. These can include anything from love letters, to invoices, spoons and belt buckles. Besides her mixed media works, Bopape is also a performance artist who engages issues around urban black female identity.
Halter's work concerns the current situation in Zimbabwe with a critical eye but never without aesthetic and playful undertones. His subject matter includes 'Zhingzhong' mother and child figurines, stone tablets with branding and icons etched onto them that he describes as 'bitter pills', as well as a document listing farms seized by the Zimbabwean government.
MacGarry is a visual artist whose work investigates the infiltration of Western imperialism and colonialism through current experience on the African continent. MacGarry is concerned with the mechanics of control and vested interest that inform symbolic languages and products from the so-called cultural 'centre' to the 'periphery' (and vice-versa), via established global trade routes. These mechanics define and manipulate us through an insidious process of inclusion and exclusion.
Shibase is intrigued by the notion of an artist as a cultural hybrid in the context of present-day South Africa. He describes himself as a young black male living in an urban environment and therefore constantly exposed to, and imposed upon, by this eclectic culture. Shibase's past works look at African leaders, the 'iconic leaders/rulers/statesmen', that he perceives to be controversial in their anti-Western views.
The 2008 finalists are each producing new work for MTN New Contemporaries Award exhibition which will be held at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery. The winner of the award will be announced at the opening on July 10.