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The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative for 2014-2015 has paired Congolese artist Sammy Baloji with his mentor, distinguished Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.

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LEFT TO RIGHT: Olafur Eliasson and Sammy Baloji. Image courtesy of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is a philanthropic programme that was set up in 2002 to make a contribution to global culture. The programme seeks out gifted young artists from all over the world and brings them together with artistic masters for a year of creative collaboration in a one-to-one mentoring relationship.

Over the past decade, Rolex has paired mentors and protégés in dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts and – as of 2012 – architecture. In the decade since it was launched, the mentoring programme has evolved into an enriching dialogue between artists of different generations, cultures and disciplines, helping ensure that the world’s artistic heritage is passed on to the next generation.

Every two years, Rolex works with distinguished artists and arts practitioners, inviting potential mentors to establish a profile of the protégé they would like to work with. Each mentorship is therefore tailor-made.

Young artists cannot apply directly to the programme. Rather, an expert panel identifies suitable potential protégés, who are then invited by Rolex to submit applications.

For the 2014 – 2015 period, distinguished Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson will be mentoring artist-photographer Sammy Baloji, who works between Belgium and his native Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Art is a great way to shape the future of the world,” says Olafur Eliasson, who also believes that mentoring functions like a “glue connecting local cultural languages into interconnected action”. For Sammy Baloji, of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eliasson’s great interest in Africa will allow a strong point of connection as Baloji explores ways to express himself artistically beyond photography.

Previous mentor/protégé programmes have included Anish Kapoor and Nicholas Hlobo (2010 – 2011) and William Kentridge and Mateo López (2012 – 2013).

For more information about the programme, and for video footage and interview material, check out the The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative website.

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