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Thursday, June 20, 2013


The finalists in the inaugural National Arts Festival/Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Arts Journalism Awards have been announced. Each finalist is a Silver Award winner. Gold Award winners, together with the overall “Arts Journalist of the Year”, will be announced in Grahamstown on June 30, 2013.

“These awards are a celebration of the excellence and passion demonstrated by our country’s arts journalists,” says National Arts Festival CEO, Tony Lankester. “They are a vital part of the industry, offering criticism, context and insight into the work our artists do. These finalists represent the best of the best, and all scored extremely highly in the judging process.”

Silver winners were those who scored over 80% from the judges in the three categories: Reviews (9 winners), Features (9 winners) and Opinion (6 winners). After assessing all the entries, the organisers decided to add a fourth category for Photography, in which five Silver winners were named.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of our committed judges,” said convenor of the judging panel Chris Thurman. “Their careful attention to each of the entries and their combined evaluation ensured a fair and thorough process.”

Apart from the Features, Reviews and Opinion category winners, the judges also made a number of commendatory Silver Awards.

“We felt that we should acknowledge some of the media platforms whose collective entries demonstrated that they have created an environment in which arts journalism can thrive,” Thurman, added. “By giving their journalists the space to explore the arts, they are contributing to a stronger industry.”

Special judges’ commendations were, therefore, given to the Mail & Guardian Online, Mahala and Carte Blanche. An individual commendation, for a sustained contribution to the arts through journalism, was given to jazz writer Don Albert.

Gold Award winners will receive cash prizes as well as a prize from the National Arts Festival’s new coffee sponsor, Nespresso. The overall Arts Journalist of the Year will be given the opportunity to travel to report on an international arts event, choosing between the Amsterdam Fringe, Adelaide Fringe and Venice Biennale.

"The importance of arts journalism cannot be overstated,” said BASA CEO, Michelle Constant. “Without the kind of interrogation and exposure journalists provide, our artists would be working in a vacuum. While a good journalist is not simply a publicity machine for the arts, their role in provoking intelligent debate and raising awareness of the arts is crucial. We hope that, by supporting these awards, we are helping to raise the standard of arts journalism, and to encourage young journalists to consider reporting and commenting on the arts as a career.”

The awards are being presented for the first time in 2013 (entries had to be published or broadcast in the 2012 calendar year to qualify). In identifying excellence, expertise and creativity, it is hoped they will promote the practice of arts and cultural journalism, strengthen its national profile and celebrate its importance, range, diversity, fluidity and vitality.

The full list of Silver Award winners is:

FEATURES: Tanja Bencun; Charl Blignaut; Lauren Clifford-Holmes; Phillip De Wet; Charles Leonard; Percy Mabandu; Nadia Neophytou; Laurice Taitz-Buntman, and Nigel Vermaas.

REVIEWS: Diane Awerbuck; Tammy Ballantyne; Matthew Blackman; Charl Blignaut; Anthea Buys; Mary Corrigall; Sean O’Toole; Robyn Sassen and Anna Stielau.

OPINION: Bruce Dennill; Lloyd Gedye; Steve Kretzmann; Charles Leonard; Carla Lever and Brooks Spector.

PHOTOGRAPHY (not originally announced as an award category in 2013. No Gold Award will be made until the 2014 competition) Herman Verwey; James Oatway; Jesse Kramer; Sizwe Ndingane; Suzy Bernstein.

JUDGES’ COMMENDATIONS:  For supporting the arts by creating a platform for creative reporting on the sector: Mail & Guardian Online, Mahala and Carte Blanche. For his practice as an arts journalist of a consistently high standard over a long period: Don Albert