Full-time artist Mondli Mbhele (28) from Durban, KwaZulu-Natal has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. Mbhele walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and an opportunity to have a solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2023.
Mbhele won the coveted title for his work titled Iphasi nesiphesheli, which is part of a bigger series titled Umlando uyaziphinda. This is an isiZulu phrase, meaning ‘history repeats itself’.
The series of mixed-media works is inspired by various iconic events from South Africa’s history. In his winning work, Mbhele explores the dynamics of protests in contemporary South Africa. The brightly coloured collage is a snapshot of an ominous moment in a protest wherein a person is lying lifeless on the ground, yet no one seems alarmed. Read our Q&A with Mondli Mbhele.
An unprecedented number of entries
Sasol has been the sponsor of the New Signatures competition for 32 years, which was established by the Association of Arts Pretoria in the late 1960s.
‘For emerging artists, the challenge remains the same: breaking into a very competitive, ever-evolving field. Sasol is honoured to play a role in providing opportunities for emerging artists to showcase their work. This year we had an unprecedented number of entries, which reinforces the need for a platform such as this. It also highlights the depth of talent and creativity across South African society,’ says Elton Fortuin, Sasol Vice President: Group Communications and Brand Management.
Pfunzo Sidogi, Chairperson of the Sasol New Signatures Competition, says: ‘This year, we received over 1 000 entries from the seven regional judging rounds, the highest number of submissions in the competition’s long history. We were particularly encouraged by the increased number of entries received from artists who did not attain formal university art education. This speaks volumes of the creative energy and passion to produce art that exists in all quarters of the country, and it is critical that we provide platforms for this creativity to be seen and celebrated.’
Runner-up and Merit Award Winners
Omolemo Rammile from Bloemfontein was crowned runner-up and awarded R25 000 for her work entitled Mére célibataire (single mom), which pays tribute to her mother and acknowledges the personal sacrifices she makes on a daily basis as a sole provider and breadwinner for her twin daughters. Bread is universally considered a staple food source. The artist uses embossed bread tags to symbolise the ‘daily bread’ her mother buys to feed her family. The multiple imprints of the bread tag on the paper are akin to the lasting impact and inner mark that the mother’s love has left on the artist and her family.
The 5 Merit award winners are Rohini Amratlal (Durban) for Unveiling the archive; Linde Kriel (Bloemfontein) [REST]ROOM; Malik Mani (Cape Town) for From the concrete grew a rose; Herman Pretorius (Pretoria) for Instructures and Andrea Walters (Durban) for #OverMyDeadBody 1 and #OverMyDeadBody 4. Each Merit Award winner receives a R10 000 cash prize.
‘The judges at both the regional and final judging round were inspired and impressed by the diversity of narratives and boldness in artistic vision evident in some of the submissions. My sincerest appreciation goes to all the judges who served on the various panels this year. Your professionalism, exceptional knowledge and experience are evident in the calibre of artworks that made it into the catalogue. But the biggest acknowledgement goes to every artist who entered the competition this year. Your creativity, passion and commitment to artmaking are priceless. The incredible turnout of entrants bodes well for the current and future vitality of art in South Africa. Onwards with the spirit of creativity. All sectors of South Africa are desperate for it,’ adds Sidogi.
Solo exhibition: Merging traditional painting with new technology
Supernature: Simulacra, the solo exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Andrea du Plessis and winner of Sasol New Signatures 2021, will also be unveiled at the Pretoria Art Museum. This exhibition is a deepening of her research into the sublime experience and the complex relationship with nature in an age marked by technological augmentation and simulation. As an extension of the Supernature series Du Plessis began in 2020; the work features an exploration of emerging technologies in combination with traditional oil painting to create interactive, immersive realms as well as an encyclopaedia of hybrid lifeforms. Supernature: Simulacra aims to offer the viewer an opportunity to consider our interconnectivity with the natural world and examines the possibility of reconnecting to nature via technology.
‘On behalf of Sasol, we congratulate all the winners of the 2022 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, as well as those whose works were selected for this exhibition, and wish them all the best for the future. We also extend our gratitude to the Association of Arts Pretoria for their dedication and hard work, as well as to our partners, the City of Tshwane, the Pretoria Art Museum and Stuttaford Van Lines, for their continued and loyal support,’ concluded Fortuin.
Du Plessis’ solo exhibition and the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition exhibition, featuring the work of the 2022 winners and finalists, takes place at the Pretoria Art Museum from 25 August until 2 October 2022. All the finalists are featured in the competition catalogue. The full exhibition is also available to view virtually on the website.