The winners of South Africa’s most prestigious art award, the Standard Bank Young Artist Award, are: Themba Mbuli (Dance), Siyavuya Makuzeni (Jazz), Mohau Modisakeng (Visual Art), Jade Bowers (Theatre) and Avigail Bushakevitz (Music).
The partnership between Standard Bank and the National Arts Festival has been consolidated since 1997 with a shared vision of identifying, honouring and nurturing young artists. One of its most recognised initiatives is the annual Standard Bank Young Artist Awards that were established in 1981.
The National Arts Festival committee, an independent body of arts specialists from around the country, is responsible for selecting each year’s winning recipients. Awards are made annually in the categories of Visual Art, Performance Art, Theatre, Dance, Music and Jazz, with an award in the category of Film given when deemed relevant.
Designed to encourage the recipients in the pursuit of their professional careers, a key aspect of the awards is the provision of the necessary funding to create and produce a new work for the forthcoming main Festival programme, thereby guaranteeing the winner exposure to a national audience. A monetary award is also made by Standard Bank to each winner in his or her personal capacity.
“The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards have become a barometer of the standards that our artists are aspiring to; they recognise talent and create an opportunity for artists to be showcased in the national and international arena” – National Arts Festival Artistic Director, Ismail Mahomed
The Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Music 2016, Avigail Bushakevitz’s family moved to South Africa from Jerusalem, where she was born, when she was one. Bushakevitz began playing piano when she was five, taking up violin at eight. Determined to nurture her undeniable talent, her mother, Leonore, used to drive her the 400-odd kilometres from their home in George to Stellenbosch, and later Cape Town, for lessons with Professor Jack de Wet.
Bushakevitz registered for a Bachelor of Music with Unisa in 2006, and received a scholarship from the Ackerman Foundation to study at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York a year later.
Bushakevitz has been winning competitions since primary school. In 2009, she played Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and won the Unisa National Strings Competition. She also won the SAMRO Foundation’s Overseas Scholarships Competition in 2012. In 2013, she was awarded first prize in the UNO Competition in Jerusalem.
“The many opportunities that have arisen simply from being South African – including winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award – make me a very lucky girl and a fortunate musician” – Avigail Bushakevitz
The Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz 2016, Siyavuya Makuzeni, is a trombone player, vocalist, lyricist and songwriter known for her uniquely experimental, edgy, yet pure intonation. Born in 1982 in the Eastern Cape, Makuzeni grew up singing in the choir and playing recorder before picking up the trombone while at Sterling High School in East London.
Throughout high school, Makuzeni participated in the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, an annual programme at the National Arts Festival that sees South Africa’s jazz students vying for a spot in the Festival’s top bands: the National Schools Big Band, the National Youth Big Band and, ultimately, the National Youth Jazz Band. Makuzeni was consecutively selected for all three bands, recording with the National Youth Jazz Band in 2001. She also featured in Zim Ngqawana’s Big Band tour to East London in 1999, and played for the East Cape Big Band for a few years. Knowing that she was destined to follow a creative path, she enrolled to study music and drama at Rhodes University in 2000, before deciding to focus on music at Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology) with a BMus specialising in Jazz.
“The influence of Xhosa music and jazz is the foundation of my musical beginnings, and has helped me to shape my own voice or individual expression” – Siyavuya Makuzeni
Choreographer, dancer and teacher, Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance 2016 Themba Mbuli’s love affair with the performing arts started in a youth club in Soweto – Zola Musical Drama – 15-odd years ago. And it was dance that drew him to Moving into Dance Mophatong (MIDM) a few years later, where he received formal training. Immediately after graduating in 2007, he joined Inzalo Dance and Theatre Company as a trainee performer under Moeketsi Koena. A year later, Mbuli was accepted back at MIDM as a dancer, where he also served as a teacher and choreographer.
Mbuli, who is now based in Cape Town, is an associate project manager and a cofounder – together with Fana Tshabalala and Thulani Chauke – of Broken Borders Arts Project. He is also a cofounder and the choreographer and managing director of the Unmute Dance Company, which was formed in 2014 to help pioneer integrated dance in South Africa, using the arts to inspire the inclusion of people with disabilities in society.
“Out of all the young South African artists who are already doing innovative and ground-breaking works, I’m really humbled to be part of the few that are recognised with such a significant award” – Themba Mbuli
Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Visual Art 2016, Mohau Modisakeng is a multidisciplinary artist working primarily as a sculptor who moves into performance, video and photography as the concept requires. He was born in 1986 and grew up in an informal settlement in Soweto.
In 2009, he graduated from the Michealis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town, and went on to complete his Masters in 2012. In just a few years, he has notched up a large number of exhibitions at galleries here and internationally as well as winning the Sasol New Signatures Award in 2011.
During 2014, he had solo exhibitions at Kunstraum Innsbruck in Austria and at Big Pond Artworks in Munich, Germany. His work was exhibited in Lagos, Nigeria, at the Archer Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, and in Cape Town at the Chavonnes Battery Museum in partnership with Zeitz MOCAA.
“My work has always presented a channel for me to engage my mind and my spirit in something reflective and introspective” – Mohau Modisakeng
Born in Cape Town in 1987, Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Theatre 2016, Jade Bowers is a director and designer who experiments with physical style and conceptual form to make theatre that is fuelled by invention and creativity.
She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Drama and Sociology from the University of Cape Town and received her Honours degree in Theatre Design and Directing for the Stage from University of the Witwatersrand in 2014.
Bowers has been recognised for her ability to revisit South African texts in an inventive yet deeply respectful way. Her beautiful and compelling reworking of Rehane Abrahams’s script What the Water Gave Me earned a Silver Ovation Award at the 2014 National Arts Festival, as well as a Naledi Award nomination in 2015 in the category, Best Production: Cutting Edge. Her collaboration with Robin Malan on iHAMLET – a 60-minute production of Shakespeare’s longest play – garnered a Naledi Award nomination for Best Theatre Sound Design in 2013. She received the Arts & Culture Trust’s ImpACT award for Theatre in 2014.
“My journey as a maker and practitioner of live theatre has been marked with as many challenges as it has been blessed with opportunities – I am profoundly grateful for both” – Jade Bowers