Nigerian artist wins prestigious South African art prize

Peju Alatise is the 2017 winner of the FNB Art Prize. The Nigerian mixed-medium artist explores strong African narratives with a focus on the experiences of contemporary African women.

Peju Alatise is the 2017 winner of the FNB Art Prize and will exhibit at the Joburg Art Fair in September 2017.
Peju Alatise’s mixed-medium installation Flying Girls was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in June 2017. (Image: Peju Alatise)

Alatise’s various early paintings, later sculptures and current installations will be the showcase exhibit at the tenth annual FNB Joburg Art Fair, to be held in Sandton from 8-10 September 2017.

The fair, one of South Africa’s leading art events, will feature more than 60 exhibitions across five categories, including traditional and modern art. Artists and cultural organisations from 11 countries, including the United States, will be part of the event.

Alatise’s work was nominated for the award by Johannesburg’s Red Door Gallery. Gallery founder Bola Asiru felt that her work best communicated both the African and female experience. “Peju’s work is filled with strong societal narratives on the realities of life in Africa,” Asiru said.

Born in 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria, Alatise studied architecture before being inspired by the jarring and honest visual art of fellow Nigerian artist David Dale. She later trained with Dale, as well as worked with traditional artisans around Africa, learning to incorporate materials such as beads, cloth and natural resins into her increasingly ambitious works.

Alatise has exhibited around the world, including at the Smithsonian Institute of African Art in the US and the Venice Biennale in Italy, one of the world’s longest running and most respected art events. Her earlier paintings and more recent multimedia pieces are also in a number of private collections as well as permanent exhibits around the world.

“It’s time for [her] message to be taken to the rest of Africa and there is no better platform for this than the FNB Joburg Art Fair,” Asiru said.

“[The Biennale is the] highest level of exhibiting an artist can be honoured with,” Alatise told CNN earlier this year. “It is the Olympics of the arts.” The particular work exhibited in Venice, titled Flying Girls, is an eight-sculpture installation of winged girls in mid-flight, representing “a strong societal narrative on the realities faced by women in Africa”. The piece will on show at the Joburg Art Fair.

Peju Alatise is the 2017 winner of the FNB Art Prize and will exhibit at the Joburg Art Fair in September 2017.
Peju Alatise’s mixed-medium installation Flying Girls was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in June 2017. (Image: Peju Alatise)

Announcing her win on its website, the Art Fair describes Alatise’s work as “installations using materials such as cloth, beads, wood, cement and resin. Addressing several social, political and gender-related issues as her primary subject matter, her works have also captured the joys and pain of womanhood as experienced in modern-life-African traditions, with all their consequences. Her subject matter has evolved with her continued experiences, moving her focus from advocating the equal rights of women to broader political and philosophical issues.”

Speaking about Alatise’s winning contribution to the Joburg Art Fair, jury member Pulane Kingston from Webber Wentzel Attorneys said the judges were unanimous. “The quality of all shortlisted candidate proposals was high this year, but… Peju Alatise’s proposal… stood out. The innovative, universal social relevance and poignancy in the themes underpinning her work were some of the deciding factors in tipping the scales in her favour.

“The body of her work over the years has been varied and compositionally strong and we think that it palpably reflects the intense vibrancy of the African continent. We have no doubt that the integrity of the overall body of her work will propel her career meaningfully.”

As sponsor of the award and the event, Aneesa Razack, CEO of FNB Share Investing, said Alatise’s work was a fine representation of the bank’s commitment to art in Africa. “We recognise that artistic expression involves creativity and imagination, which we know to be key drivers of innovation… the social and political commentary of Alatise’s work embodies so much of what we hope to find in the recipient of the prize.”

Read an indepth interview with Peju Alatise by Aljazeera here.

For more information about the Joburg Art Fair, visit the website here.

View more of Peju Alatise’s work on her personal website here.

Source: All Africa, FNB, Joburg Art Fair

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