Excellence in curatorship, innovation, and digital technologies in art celebrated at MTN x UJ New Contemporary Awards


Johannesburg, 25 November 2022Inga Somdyala, has been announced as the winner of the overall Artist Award at the inaugural MTN X UJ New Contemporary Awards this evening, while Nkule Mabaso’s curatorial excellence was acknowledged with the Legacy Panel Special Award.


The event, which took place at the Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theatre at the University of Johannesburg’s Kingsway Campus, heaved with youthfulness, creativity and innovation as it celebrated the vision of curator Khanya Mashabela and her four artists – Inga Somdyala, Thandiwe Msebenzi, Callan Grecia and Natalie Paneng.


Themed New Beginnings: Nurturing our Digital Imaginations the event highlighted the impetus behind this unique art competition which is aimed at identifying, supporting, mentoring, and promoting curator and worthy artists or collaboratives who have not yet received critical acclaim.


The MTN x UJ New Contemporary Awards is strongly linked to UJ and MTN’s focus on digital technologies, 4IR, and youth development. The bi-annual nationwide competition places a strong emphasis on digital media, with a focus on innovative ways and digital solutions that can contribute towards art education and skills development among young SA artists.


This year, over a period of five months, the selected artists worked closely with the 2022 curator, Khanya Mashabela, in developing and presenting a collaborative vision that has seen each artist come into their own.


The Legacy Panel’s response was “[w]e as the Legacy Panel would like to commend the curator for producing a courageous and expansive exhibition in its complication of the digital. The exhibition indicates a diversity of contemporary practice. We celebrate the revival of a curator-driven award as it acknowledges the growing field of the curatorial. We acknowledge the importance of the nation-wide research component that goes into deciding on the final selection of the artists. The award should be applauded for its ability to benefit both young curators and artists.”



“It has been remarkable to watch both Khanya and her selected artist work to collaboratively reach the level of growth and depth viewed here tonight. We look forward to seeing where the future takes both Khanya and the artists,” said Thabo Seshoka, Curator of the UJ Art Gallery.


Khanya Mashabela says that “working with the four appointed artists to advance the discourse around the relationship between the arts and technology was incredible.”


“Having been witness to the development and success of the New Contemporaries platform, since its launch in 2001, and the impact it has made on young curators and artists in the contemporary South African art sector, I am tremendously proud and grateful to see it revived after its 10-year hiatus. Our partnership with the UJ Art Gallery has been key to achieving this and I am especially proud of, and grateful, to Khanya for taking on this opportunity and bringing us this amazing exhibition with these amazing young artists,” said Niel Nortje, manager of the MTN Art Collection.


During the Legacy Panel’s discussion in selecting a candidate for the MTN X UJ NCA guest curator position it became clear that there are not enough platforms that recognise curatorial excellence or significant contributions towards the discipline of curatorship, within the contemporary art sector.


It therefore became pertinent to create an award within the NCA project that identifies and recognises the contribution and accomplishments of a South African curator between 2013 and 2021, when the NCA was not active. The panel also considered the MTN & UJ Partnership’s focus on the development of opportunities for disenfranchised youth within the sector, which would only allow for the consideration of candidates no older than 35 years.

In response to these considerations the Legacy Panel bestowed a Special Award upon on artist, curator and director of the Natal Collective, Nkule Mabaso. Established in 2012, the Natal Collective is an independent production company based in South Africa, and active internationally in the research and presentation of creative and cultural Africana contemporary art and politics.

“Our initial selection of the guest curator yielded many worthy recipients. This initial presentation served as a great database from which we nominated the Special Award recipient.  This award recipient needed to be one whose work and presence could be significantly highlighted; whose curatorial innovation stood out, whose knowledge dissemination is noteworthy, one who also mentored practitioners in varying possibly informal capacities in the field, while also having been industrially and socially impactful,” wrote the NCA Legacy Panel convener, Melissa Goba.

During the event there were outstanding live performances by the Mzansi Youth Choir and the Springs Boys high Brass Band not only entertained but enhanced the vision of youthful potential.

The MTN x UJ New Contemporaries exhibition is open to the public from 28 November – 15 January 2023 at the UJ Art Gallery.


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