Last night, the National Arts Festival announced the Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners for 2016, recognising and celebrating their unique contributions to the South African arts scene.

Established by the National Arts Festival in 1981, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards are given to young South African artists who have produced exceptional work in their respective fields of art, but who haven’t quite broken into the national art scene yet.

Besides securing a place on the Festival’s main programme, the artists also receive a cash prize and a considerable amount of financial support to help them stage their productions, mount and exhibit their work, or open up their music to larger audiences.   

Here’s a look at the 2016 Young Artist Award winners. 

Mohau Modisakeng – Visual Art

Bringing visual art to the table is Soweto born Mohau Modisakeng. Known primarily as a sculptor, Mohau is a multidisciplinary artist who has ventured into film, installation, performance, and large-scale photographic prints.

A Masters graduate from UCT’s Michealis School of Fine Art, he has racked up a considerable number of exhibitions both locally and internationally as well as receiving the Sasol New Signatures Award in 2011.

Mohau’s work highlights the position of the black body situated in the violent context of South Africa’s past and present. It explores how we understand our own socio- political and cultural roles as human beings in the country. A perfect example of the type of art that Mohau creates is his sobering and poignant video piece Inzilo (isiZulu for ‘mourning’ or ‘fasting’) where he makes use of his own body to enact a mourning ritual. Recently, Mohau has worked on public performances and interventions, and his work may soon be moving towards the theatrical.

Jade Bowers – Theatre

Jade Bowers certainly has done a lot for someone who isn’t yet nationally recognised. The Cape Town born director and designer is known for her unique take on physical style and conceptual form to produce pioneering and innovative theatre.

After graduating from UCT, she received her Honours degree in Theatre Design and Directing from Wits. Previously the resident stage manager at the University of Johannesburg, Jade now works at the Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organization as a theatrical rights administrator and runs her own production company.

Jade’s work includes being part of the team that staged Ashraf Johaardien’s adaption of K Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams, a solo work Salaam Stories, and her reworking of Rehane Abrahams’s script What the Water Gave Me which earned her a Silver Ovation Award at the 2014.

Themba Mbuli – Dance

Cape Town based dancer, choreographer and teacher Themba Mbuli graduated from Moving into Dance Mophatong with a certificate in performing arts in 2007, but his passion for dance started about 15 years ago when he joined a youth club in Soweto called Zola Musical Drama. There he experimented with poetry, dance, music, and drama.

Since then, Themba has gone on to dance and teach at a number of theatre schools as well as co- found projects such as the Broken Borders Arts Project and more recently, the Unmute Dance Company, and aims to promote the inclusion of differently abled individuals in society through the arts.

His works include productions such as Dark Cell which was inspired by political prisoners on Robben Island, and Trapped and Ashed, which were performed together as part of the Artscape Women/Humanity Arts Festival last year.

Avigail Bushakevitz – Music

On the classical note is Jerusalem born, South African relocated violinist Avigail Bushakevitz. Like many classical musicians, Avigail ‘s first encounter with music began at a young age when she started playing piano at age five, and violin at eight.

After studying music through Unisa, a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in New York saw Avigail really cement her skills on the violin and even obtain her Masters degree in music in 2012.

Now based in Germany, where she is a member of the Essenz Streichquartett in Berlin, Avigail spends most of her time touring internationally and often returns to South Africa where she performs and gives recitals with her pianist brother, Ammiel.

Siyavuya Makuzeni – Jazz

Growing up in the Eastern Cape, Siyavuya Makuzeni started her musical career playing the recorder and singing in the school choir. It was a few years later that she first picked up a trombone. Well acquainted with the National Arts Festival, Siya participated in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival all through her high school career as well as playing for the East Cape Big Band for a few years.

Influenced by traditional and contemporary Xhosa and jazz music, Siya’s style is now a genre-bending blend of drum and bass, hip hop, traditional Xhosa music and electronica, backed by sweeping soundscapes and looping vocals aided by a vocal pedal.

She’s performed with artists such as Frank Opperman, Khaya Mahlangu, and Sibongile Khumalo and when she’s not touring or collaborating, Siya is a session musician and voice-over artist. She is also a band leader of her own experimental rock group, IppYFuz.

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www.nationalartsfestival.co.za

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