Bonolo Kavula is awarded the 2022 Norval Sovereign African Art Prize

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South African artist Bonolo Kavula was named as the Grand Prize Winner of the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize for her artwork Tswelopele, a textile-based sculptural piece crafted from a red shweshwe dress.

Bonolo is the first artist to receive this annual award for contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora, which was launched in 2021 as a joint initiative between the Sovereign Art Foundation and the Norval Foundation. She was presented with the trophy and ZAR500,000 before an audience of 250 guests at Norval Foundation in Cape Town on 15 February 2022. She will also have the opportunity for a solo show at Norval Foundation later in the year.

Bonolo said of her win: “I’m still very surprised. Andrea Lewis from Iziko National Gallery nominated me; that alone was such a huge confidence booster. I knew with a prize like this I had to challenge myself to make something daring and different from the work I had been making in the studio. All I can say is hard work really pays off and there will always be someone who sees your work, believes in it, and may possibly even change the direction of your career and that’s what Andrea has done for me.

“Being shortlisted was my very own personal first prize, so to have walked home with the prize is unbelievable and an extra bonus to what has already felt like such a blessing. The real challenge now is to make people go ‘Oh! That’s why she was awarded the prize’. For the solo exhibition at Norval Foundation, I’m going to put together works that even I will be surprised by. I’m really driven by the need to be different; I will give a presentation of works that are going to be extraordinary and I can’t wait.”

The Public Vote Prize winner was also revealed as René Tavares (São Tomé e Príncipe), for his piece Sóia dona um, 2021, retratos pra Inglês ver –  series, a work  recalling  the  plantations  in  São Tomé  after  the  abolition  of  slavery and reminding us of a history that is important to both recover and reckon with. His artwork captured the attention of the public and received the most votes both from visitors to the exhibition and online. As well as his trophy, René receives ZAR25,000 in prize money.

The event in Cape Town, was the culmination of a month-long Finalists’ Exhibition at Norval Foundation and the launch of the benefit auction, which was hosted online by Sotheby’s. This auction ran for a week and all artworks were sold, raising USD279,200 to be split equally between the shortlisted artists and Norval Foundation’s Education Programme.

This first edition of the Prize has been a great success. A board of 53 independent arts professionals – comprising curators and academics who work closely with artists in their respective regions – nominated 158 artists to enter.

From these, 30 finalists were shortlisted by a panel of five world-class art specialists, comprising: David Elliott, writer, curator and museum director; Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, Exhibitions Director at Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech; Khanya Mashabela, Curator of Norval Foundation; Marie-Ann Yemsi, exhibition curator and contemporary art consultant; and Tim Marlow, Chief Executive and Director, Design Museum, London.

The finalists for this year’s Prize came from 18 countries, of which South Africa had the strongest representation, followed by Zimbabwe, Angola, Morocco and Nigeria.

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Photograph of René Tavares and his artwork Sóia dona um, 2021, retratos pra Inglês ver –  series

The Sovereign Art Foundation extends sincere thanks to all those who supported the initiative, in particular the Prize Title Sponsor EON Reality. After a promising start, it will be exciting to watch how this Prize develops in the future.

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