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The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative was established in 2002 to aid in the transmission of artistic knowledge and craft from one generation to the next. It exemplifies Rolex’s pursuit of excellence, symbolised by the word “Perpetual”.

Five of the world’s most renowned artists – El Anatsui (Visual Arts), Bernardine Evaristo (Literature), Jia Zhang-Ke (Film), Anne Lacaton (Architecture) and Dianne Reeves (Music) – will each mentor an outstanding emerging artist, as participants in the 2023-2024 cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui has selected South African visual artist Bronwyn Katz as his protégée; British author Bernardine Evaristo selected Ghanaian writer Ayesha Harruna Attah; Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-Ke selected Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel; French architect Anne Lacaton selected Lebanese-Armenian architect Arine Aprahamian; and American jazz singer Dianne Reeves selected South Korean singer and composer Song Yi Jeon.

The mentors and their protégés will spend the next two years in creative collaboration, as the highest level of artistry is transmitted in time-honoured fashion across the generations. Since its launch, the programme has paired 63 of the world’s greatest artists with 63 emerging talents from around the globe.

Rolex announced the new mentors and their protégés during a ceremony at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), as part of a two-day Rolex Arts Weekend celebrating the culmination of the 2020-2022 cycle of the programme.

Visual Arts: Al Anatsui and Bronwyn Katz
El Anatsui and Bronwyn Katz. Courtesy of Rolex.

Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has helped redefine the global art world with Africa’s presence, raising its profile through his monumental sculptures and installations that move across painting, textiles, sculpture and design to encompass the use of water, wind, wood, clay, stone, metal, printing plates, aluminium bottle tops and other found materials. His protégée, the Cape Town-based South African Bronwyn Katz, has similarly incorporated sculpture, installation, video and performance in her acclaimed, nuanced body of work that uses found natural materials such as iron ore, or salvaged manufactured objects including foam mattresses and bed springs.

Literature: Bernardine Evaristo and Ayesha Harruna Attah
Bernardine Evaristo and Ayesha Harruna Attah. Courtesy of Rolex.

Bernardine Evaristo, who in 2019 became the first black woman and the first black British person to win the prestigious Booker Prize for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other, is the author of 10 books that explore the African diaspora and numerous other works of short fiction, poetry, drama, essays and journalism. Her protégée, Ayesha Harruna Attah, is part of a new generation of African writers who are making their name in literary circles. The Senegal-based Ghanaian author has published five novels: Harmattan Rain (2009), Saturday’s Shadows (2015), The Hundred Wells of Salaga (2018), The Deep Blue Between (2020) and Zainab Takes New York (2022) that challenge existing preconceptions of African mores through her vibrant storytelling.

Film: Jia Zhang-Ke and Rafael Manuel
Jia Zhang-Ke and Rafael Manuel. Courtesy of Rolex.

Considered one of the most daring Chinese filmmakers working today, Jia Zhang-Ke has become a leading figure in the post-1990 “Sixth Generation” of Chinese directors. His early films, known as the Shanxi trilogy, caught moments of transition in Chinese society. He has since garnered a string of top awards, including the Golden Lion at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. Jia Zhang-Ke’s protégé, the award-winning Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel, has grounded his creations in the study of philosophy and visual communications. Manuel is currently working on his first two feature films: Filipiñana (based on his short of that name) and Patrimonio.

Architecture: Anne Lacation and Arine Aprahamian
Anne Lacation and Arine Aprahamian. Courtesy of Rolex.

Named a Laureate of the 2021 Pritzker Architecture Prize, Anne Lacaton of Lacaton & Vassal is recognised internationally for designs that maximise the discipline’s human and environmental potential and make sustainable use of what already exists. Her protégée, the Lebanese-Armenian architect, designer and researcher Arine Aprahamian, also champions an innovative, affordable and sustainable vision of the future through architecture as evident in the cutting-edge buildings and projects she and her studio MÜLLER APRAHAMIAN have designed in Beirut, London and Yerevan, Armenia.

Music: Dianne Reeves and Song Yi Jeon
Dianne Reeves and Song Yi Jeon. Courtesy of Rolex.

Recognized for her breathtaking virtuosity, improvisational prowess and unique jazz and R&B stylings, five-time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves is considered the world’s pre-eminent jazz vocalist. Her most recent album, Beautiful Life, received the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance and she won the same award previously for three consecutive recordings. Reeves’s protégée, Song Yi Jeon, the South Korean modern jazz singer and composer who developed her unique sound at Boston’s famed Berklee College of Music in the US, is known for her hypnotic voice that is likened to a malleable wordless instrument, as well as for her incomparable improvisations. In 2018, Jeon released her first album, Movement of Lives.

For more information, please visit Rolex and the Arts.

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