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Monday, April 4, 2022


MTN SA Foundation and the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Arts and Culture Division announce the launch of the New Contemporaries Awards Programme.

On March 16, 2022, the partners announced the return of the much-missed New Contemporaries Award Programme at a brunch event at the UJ Art Gallery in Johannesburg. Although similar in nature to the MTN SA Foundation’s original New Contemporaries Award, the MTN X UJ New Contemporaries Award Programme places an emphasis on developments in the digital arts sphere. 

The MTN SA Foundation and UJ Art Gallery have been engaged in a successful, and beneficial, Art Collection Partnership since 2017. The aim of the Partnership has been to increase exposure and provenance development for both institutions’ art collections; provide mentorship and training opportunities in the curatorial field and explore innovative ways and digital solutions in contributing towards art education and skills development among South African women and youth. The MTN x UJ New Contemporaries Awards will especially contribute towards the last two mentioned aims. 

The MTN X UJ New Contemporaries Award Programme takes impetus from the MTN SA Foundation’s original New Contemporaries Award – a legacy biennale art competition and accompanying exhibition that ran from 2001 to 2012. The programme would identify a young guest curator who was considered a future leader within the field of contemporary South African art, and they would in turn select and promote four South African artists or collaboratives who had not yet received critical acclaim. The award and the publicity surrounding the event, resulted in the career acceleration of both the curator and all four nominees. 

At the end of 2012, the MTN New Contemporaries Award took an unofficial hiatus from the public contemporary arts scene and was never hosted on any public platform since.

Niel Nortje, Manager of the MTN Art Collection explains, “the MTN New Contemporaries Award was always a unique award because it is entirely unsolicited by the artists it honours.  Firstly, it finds a curator and acknowledges the curatorial practice before the artists. The award is as much about the curator as it is about the artist he or she selects from their concepts.”

Now, following successful discussions between UJ Arts & Culture, the MTN SA Foundation team and the continuation of the Memorandum of Agreement between the two entities. The newly envisaged MTN X UJ New Contemporaries Award Programme places special emphasis on digital media, in line with both MTN and UJ’s 4IR strategies. 

Newly appointed curator of the UJ Art Gallery, Thabo Seshoka, expanded further on the importance of this programme; “This competition comes at an important time when the arts industry needs support, and emerging artists have not been able to participate or display their work. It is about being different, bold, and courageous. I think relaunching the award in our current context really shows how committed we are to strengthening the visual arts as a university.” 

“We have a great opportunity to continue collaborating with the MTN SA Foundation, and grow what has been a very successful partnership, and to work with emerging artists to ensure the longevity of their careers,” he concludes. 

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This project is supported by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA)