Four Cassirer Welz Award 2021 finalists announced

Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, in partnership with Strauss & Co Fine Art Auctioneers, have announced the four shortlisted finalists for the 2021 Cassirer Welz Award: Mpumelelo Buthelezi, Nthabiseng Boledi Kekana, Samuel Nnorom and Xanthè Jackson. 

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on Monday 29 November 2021 at Strauss & Co  Fine Art Auctioneers. The event starts at 6pm.  

Now in it’s tenth year, the Cassirer Welz Award celebrates the lives of the late Reinhold Cassirer who  was a renowned art dealer and Stephan Welz, the late art auctioneer and founder of Strauss & Co. The award has given emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their talents to a broader  audience and acknowledges exceptional emerging artists with an opportunity of a ten-week residency  and a solo exhibition of new work at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios. 

“Since its inception this award has seen the winners launch their careers and really start making a  name for themselves within the South Africa art market,” says Susie Goodman, General Manager,  Strauss & Co Johannesburg. Previous winners include artists such as Blessing Ngobeni,  Nompumelelo Ngoma, Tshepo Mosopa, Asanda Kupa, Thato Nhlapho, Richard “Specs” Ndimande  and Keneilwe Mokoena.  

The award will provide the recipient with studio space, a contribution towards material costs, and  transport stipend, as well as the opportunity to interact with the resident artists at the Bag Factory.  Through the exchange of ideas, mentorship and skills development, the artist has an opportunity for  substantial creative and professional growth. 


Mpumelelo Buthelezi was born (1994) in Pimville in Soweto, Johannesburg. He taught himself to be  a photographer to interpret the time and place he was born into, to tell the untold stories of the  communities of his country, to present them as narratives and full lives lived in the margins. He  studied photojournalism and documentary photography at Market Photo Workshop, graduating in  2017. He has exhibited his work at the Student Gallery there, at the Social Art Award in Germany,  Transitions Rotterdam FotoFestival in Netherlands, as well as a solo exhibition at WeTilt in Italy, He  was on an artist-residency programme with Sir Prof Zanele Muholi (MuholiProductions) and Betive  Holdings. He is currently on another virtual artist-residency with wendy network for arts unchained. He  lives and works in Johannesburg. 

Nthabiseng Boledi Kekana is an artist born (1999) in Johannesburg and raised in Alexandra. She is  currently living and practicing in Alexandra. Nthabiseng started drawing in her early primary school  years and later went to the National school of the Arts, where she majored in three dimensional  design. After graduating from NSA she entered the LISOF (Fashion Design Institute)  #MyFashionCareer bursary competition and came first runner up, she ended up studying for a higher  certicate. She also later applied to study digital media in design at the University of Johannesburg and  currently holds a degree in digital media in design (multimedia). After obtaining her degree she began  her journery as a full-time artist. She grounds her work in inclusivity and uses a harmonic range of  mediums from acrylic, charcoal, pastels, neline, natural bres, mixed media and more to futher explore  the world’s narrative through her lens. Her work has been exhibited in France and currently is in  possession of major collectors around the world, primarily in London and the US.


Samuel Nnorom is a multi-talented artist who seeks to explore several materials. He holds a BAed  (sculpture major) from the University of Jos and currently concluding an MFA in sculpture from the  University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Samuel was winner of the national art competition organised by the  National Gallery of Art in 2010 and 2012. He also won prizes in the 2016, 2017 and 2019 editions of  the Life in My City Art Festival. He was first prize recipient (leatherwork category) of the Icreate Africa  2019. Samuel has received invitations to important workshops and group exhibitions, including the  international art workshop by IICD at the United States Embassy, Abuja (2019), Young Contemporary  2021, published in an international magazine, UK (zine, issue 11, artist responding to issues) 2021  and recipient of 2022 ROSL and Art House Residency London, and several others. He belongs to the  New Nsukka School of Art and is currently exploring Ankara fabric to explore ideas surrounding  bubbles while interrogating personal experiences that relate to socio political issues in Africa.   

Xanthè Jackson was born (1988) in Johannesburg and is a Durban-based multidisciplinary artist She  completed a diploma in Fine Arts from Rhodes University in 2011. After a stint working with interior  designers and architects, she started a popup shop, META in 2015, selling handmade jewellery and  clothing. She was selected as a top ten finalist in the MTN & UJ Emerging Artist Programme and won  first prize in the New Now Next Emerging Artist Awards hosted by Galerie Noko. Xanthè is an abstract  artist, whose work is process-driven and detail oriented. With visual interests invested in texture and  exploring the limitations of mediums, resulting in complex abstract works, Xanthè aims to deal with  human connection, society highlighted by the pandemic, social-scapes and insignificant moments.  Through her work, Xanthè speaks of loss, connection, time, memory, familiarity, as well as the  unfamiliar, and perhaps even the aberrant. 


The Bag Factory is a non-profit contemporary visual art organisation in Newtown, Johannesburg. With  a pioneering 30-year history of providing a supportive infrastructure for artists, the Bag Factory is  unique in combining art making with cultural debate and art exhibitions, thereby creating a fertile  international environment for experimentation, innovation, and cultural dialogue between creatives in  South Africa and the rest of the world. 

They provide studio space to a cross-generational community of Johannesburg based artists, and host a prestigious international artist and curator residency programme. They present regular  exhibitions in their  gallery that showcases new work by emerging artists to the wider public, and they also  support the professional development of artists and curators through workshops, mentorship, and the prestigious David Koloane and Cassirer Welz awards. 

All Bag Factory programmes are accompanied by a public programme that encourages greater understanding  of contemporary visual art and stimulates interaction between artists and the local community. The Bag Factory is affiliated with the international Triangle Network. 

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