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Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, in collaboration with Strauss & Co. Education and Fine Art Auctioneers, proudly announces Tawanda Takura (Zimbabwe) as the winner of the 13th Cassirer Welz Award.

Tawanda Takura. Courtesy of Cassirer Welz Award.

Established in 2011 by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer in honour of her husband Reinhold Cassirer’s passion for the arts, this award has become a distinguished recognition for emerging local artists. Following Stephan Welz’s death, the Cassirer Welz Award was renamed to honour both men’s contributions to the South African art scene.

Through its enduring partnership with Strauss Education, the Cassirer Welz Award has been instrumental in launching the careers of its recipients, helping them gain recognition in the South African art market. As the award celebrates over a decade of excellence, Bag Factory Artists’ Studios and Strauss Education continue their commitment to fostering emerging talent.

Since its inception, the award’s reach has expanded onto the continent. The 2024 call for entries included artists from several countries within the Triangle Network, such as Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. With great pride, this year’s award is presented to a Zimbabwean artist.

The selection jury, which included Bag Factory Director Maria Fidel Regueros and Programmes Manager Nala Xaba, Strauss & Co. Executive Director Client Advisory Khetiwe McClain, and Art Specialist Arisha Maharaj, agreed that Takura is an exceptional artist. This creative and professional growth opportunity will significantly benefit his self-taught practice in found object sculpture.

Since its inception, this award has helped the winners launch their careers and start making a name for themselves. It recognises artistic excellence, encouraging creative practice, and providing the supportive space and presentation platforms required by emerging artists. This award is an important part of Strauss & Co.’s ongoing and substantial commitment to young talent in southern Africa and on the continent – and is a powerful example of the company’s investment in the art of the future,” said Susie Goodman, Executive Director, Strauss & Co. 

With the generous support of Strauss & Co. and funding from Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), Takura will receive a three-month residency at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios from 08 July to 27 September 2024, where he will work alongside permanent and visiting artists at all stages in their careers. The residency includes contributions to travel, accommodation, per diem, materials, and production costs. The residency will culminate in a solo exhibition of new works at the Bag Factory, opening to the public at the end of September.

Since its inception, this award has seen the winners launch their careers and start making a name for themselves within the South African art market. Previous winners include Blessing Ngobeni, Bulumko Mbete, Nompumelelo Ngoma, Tshepo Mosopa, Asanda Kupa, Thato Nhlapho, Richard “Specs” Ndimande, Keneilwe Mokoena, DuduBloom More and Levy Pooe.

This year’s award finalists included:

Tawanda Takura has exhibited with Village Unhu at the Cape Town Art Fair (2017, 2018) and Joburg Art Fair (2018) and undertook a residency in Joburg with the South African Foundation for Contemporary Art (SAFFCA) in 2019. Takura’s work was included in a group show at the Guns & Rain Gallery in March 2019, the Cape Town Art Fair (2020), and a two-person show with Thina Dube (2020). He has since participated in the group exhibitions Unnatural Objects and Meeting Places, a collaborative exhibition with Bag Factory (2021). In 2021, he participated in a residency with Guns & Rain and at the Nirox Sculpture Park, one after the other. He also had work showing during the Nirox Winter Exhibition in 2022.

Trained as a shoemaker, Takura takes apart and expertly re-assembles old shoes that carry their owners’ traces and biographies—sometimes, combined with other found objects and texts, these new figurations carry the subtle but persistent smell of rubber and leather. Hollow, hybrid, tortured and distorted, sometimes carnivalesque, Takura’s work comments on socio-political injustice and often takes precise aim at what he sees as the extractive and hypocritical practices of charismatic churches. The artist describes how, “at times, in earlier years, I was considered a madman, going around collecting old shoes… people would see a heap of shoes in my house”. 

Fred Zucule is a photographer, poet and cultural worker from Maputo, Mozambique, currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. Their work explores themes of migration, queerness and care, with the body as a tool, metaphor and subject. Raised across multiple geographies from Maputo to Nairobi, Johannesburg, Los Angeles and New York, their photography blends these experiences through a mystical, surreal and queer lens. Kuln’Zu is also a film programmer, having worked with the New York African Film Festival, the Atlanta African Film Festival and more. They graduated from Pomona College in 2021 with a BA in Africana Studies, with concentrations in Media and Molecular Biology.

Chumani “ivukuvuku” Mantanga is from eMgwenyane village at Tsomo in the Eastern Cape. She is a multi-dimensional artist who works across textiles, painting, glass, ceramics, writing, photography and performance disciplines. She explores themes of memory, healing, history, and ancestry in her work. ivukuvuku completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine and Applied Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology (2019), majoring in glass and painting. The name ivukuvuku is based on the realisation of how a piece of cloth, sometimes unpleasant, represents the rebirth of a transformed self and celebrates a healed version of self.

In her artworks, materiality plays a vital role as she can connect with her mediums – those found in places like rivers, swamps and gravel paths in her village – in a way that revives the character of what was once discarded, then later brings into life – a rebirth of ivukuvuku. By mostly using sackcloth to unite all the details entailed in her artworks, ivukuvuku is a healer and a healing spirit to (her)sel(ves). She describes the sackcloth as a skin, the celebration of (her)sel(ves) that suspends the societal beliefs of how ivukuvuku should identify. The sackcloth is also a symbolic healing of memory that represents the active processes of reconnecting and recreating relationships within the sacred space where the presence of nature and her ancestors reside. As a result, the sackcloth undergoes water, fire, wind, and sun elements before being incorporated with beadwork and fire. 

Keabetswe Seema is a visual artist working in Johannesburg. She has a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria, and her practice revolves around the politics of the body and identity. She explores themes of afro-futurism, non-monolithic selfhood, family archives, spirituality, and the hypervisible body.

Her works welcome the audience into an alternative universe where playful experimentation meets thought-provoking social commentary; it invites viewers to journey through mystery, absurdity and brilliance that seamlessly blends African futures and the profound.

Masindi Ikhona Nafisa Mbolekwa is a young artist living and practising in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mbolekwa’s primary practice is a conversation about painting, history, culture, space, community, and God. Born into a proud and rich indigenous culture in a space of little tolerance, he finds himself caught between the necessity of modernism and the romance of tradition, between the institutional pull of the West and the soul-bound call of home.

In interrogating identity, colonial mechanisms, religion, metaphysics, and the popularised, mythicised histories of “man” (as centred on the hegemonic West), he fashions a mythos of his own: an explorative pseudo-narrative to ground his experienced state of ‘groundlessness’. It is a reflection of liminality, a questioning of both real and constructed binaries, a debate with God, an ethereal safe space, and a descent into the shadows of the divine.

Nyashadzashe Marovatsanga is a young painter who lives and works in Harare, Zimbabwe. He has been an artist in residency at Village Unhu, Harare, since 2017. Founded by Georgina Maxim, Gareth Nyandoro, and Misheck Masamvu, Village Unhu is an art space that nurtures artistic local talent.

Under Misheck Masamvu’s mentorship, Marovatsanga has developed a powerful painterly language, using gestural brushstrokes and bold colouration.

He describes his work: “Sometimes, I go blank, and then the portraits revive my everyday struggle. Sometimes, I dream, and then reveal the dreams in my portraits. Sometimes, I laugh, and the teeth show all the cracks. Sometimes, the sun shines too hot.”

Marovatsanga’s works were shown for the first time in South Africa as part of Different Angles, an exhibition held at THK Gallery Cape Town. He has exhibited with THK Gallery at 1-54 London and various local art fairs. He is represented in collections in South Africa, Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe, including the Chris Moser collection (Vienna/Austria).

Treasure Mlima is a self-taught South African artist born in 1999 in Durban in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Mlima’s works are composed of 2D prints, showcasing an array of imagery dealing with space and identity from an African perspective.

Technically, Mlima’s artistic process includes using found images that are digitally manipulated into collages, then carved into wood and eventually painted with oil-based and acrylic inks. Mlima sees himself as a sample of an African existence. As an artist, Mlima commits himself to being a cultural practitioner who has the duty to expose what is hidden.

For more information, please visit Bag Factory Artists Studio and Strauss & Co Fine Art Auctioneers.

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