The 11th Tollman Award for the Visual Arts has been awarded to the young South African artist Mawande Ka Zenzile.
Ka Zenzile was born in Lady Frere, Eastern Cape, in 1986. He is in the process of completing a BA Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, where he won the Michaelis Prize in 2013.
Mawande Ka Zenzile, Black man you are on your own, 2014, Cow dung and oil on canvas, 170 x 240cm, Courtesy of artist and Stevenson Cape Town and Johannesburg
Previous solo shows have been Crawling Nation at the AVA in 2009 and Autobiography of Mawande Ka Zenzile: Iingcuka ezombethe iimfele zeegusha at VANSA, Cape Town, in 2011. Group exhibitions include X Marks the Spot at the AVA (2008); Umahluko at Lookout Hill as part of Cape 09 and Between the Lines at the Michaelis Galleries (2013). Ka Zenzile has been a regular participant in academic conferences including Thinking Africa + Diaspora Differently at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town (2011); The Exuberant Project, Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts, University of Cape Town (2012); and Between the Lines, Michaelis School of Fine Art and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig (2013). Many of these projects have been accompanied by performances.
Ka Zenzile draws from poignant historical and contemporary political moments which have influenced our perception of everyday life such as unassuming childhood games like Street Fighter which at a closer look have political undertones. The incorporation of familiar characters like Charlie Chaplin and Mowgli and Bagheera to his work is used to tease out other readings that were perhaps not previously considered. Recurring motifs in his work are the scarecrow, with its associations of both power and vulnerability, the boat, which suggests an interest in exploration and travel, as well as its darker counterparts of conquest and slavery, and the jester, in the playfulness and the association to the philosophy of the controversial Greek Diogenes of Sinope who practiced Cynicism through leading a simple life.
The annual Tollman Award for the Visual Arts was founded in 2003. A grant of R100 000 is given directly to a young artist who has received critical recognition but who has had limited resources to realise the potential of his or her work. Recipients may spend the award as they wish, to produce new work, travel, study or produce a publication.
Since its inception the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts has significantly advanced the achievements and bodies of work of each of its winners. It has also been successful in identifying the potential of young artists, all of whom have continued to achieve great things. Past award winners are Wim Botha, Churchill Madikida, Mustafa Maluka, Zanele Muholi, Nicholas Hlobo, Paul Edmunds, Sabelo Mlangeni, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Ian Grose, Kemang Wa Lehulere and Portia Zvavahera.
Botha, Madikida and Hlobo all went on to receive the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Muholi has exhibited extensively abroad, most recently on Documenta 13 and Carnegie International 2013, she will have a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015. Hlobo has exhibited internationally with solo projects at Tate Modern, London, and the Boston ICA, and exhibited at the54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Botha recently presented a new installation at the South African Pavilion in Venice, and Nitegeka recently had his first solo exhibition in New York. Mlangeni’s work was recently seen in the exhibition The Rise and Fall of Apartheid at the ICP in New York and Wa Lehulere’s work is part of the 8th Berlin Biennale and was the recipient of the 15th Baloise Art Prize, at Art Basel. Zvavahera is the recipient of the FNB Art Prize 2014.
Michael Stevenson, after consultation with artists and curators, offers a shortlist to the Tollman family who select an artist whose work resonates with them.
The award is an acknowledgement of the family’s commitment to the extraordinary creativity of art from South Africa and further afield. Toni Tollman, on behalf of the family, said that offering the awards has been a defining moment for the family who have, for the past 40 years, been major collectors of South African art and filled their homes and hotels with works by South African artists.