An expectant energy always comes over the air when the annual Standard Bank Young Artists are announced. This year, as we all held our breath in wonder, the energy became even more palpable because of the award ceremony’s chosen theme: “Break Through.” The night was peppered with chatter about how the artists lives are about to change. This, thanks to the opportunities that come with the award: the prize money, the credibility, recognition and all the structural support to realize the next big creative project.
Then, the award winners were announced. A new group of amazing talents breaking through into the great league of South African artists as the Standard Bank Young Artists 2018.
Pianist and composer, Thandi Ntuli wins the jazz category award. The Visual Art prize awarded to Igshaan Adams. Chuma Sopotela received the Performance Art category award, while Jemma Kahn scooped the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for theatre. The dance category went to Musa Hlatshwayo. Guitarist, Guy Buttery was awarded the music award. He wins in a category that breaks with tradition. The music award has customarily been given to musicians who practice opera and classical music.
Perhaps the most powerful tribute came from CEO of the National Arts Festival, Tony Lankester. In a speech congratulating the honourees, Lankester said to them: “All we ask of you in the year to come is that you make something beautiful, something powerful and something important.” The words set a fitting tone for the great anticipation that will stalk these artists until they present their award related work at the National Arts Festival next year.
This requirement to create a new work is part of what makes the Standard Bank Young Artist Award a break through award. Apart from honouring the young artists, it challenges them to create work out of the spirit of being affirmed for their creative vision. This allows them to reach beyond their current creative level into the next plane of excellence. In fact, that’s part of why the award has been able to propel so many artists from promising young talents into “respected creative global citizens,” as Hazel Chimhandamba, Group Head of Sponsorship at Standard Bank put it in her vote of thanks.
It’s been 37 years since the inception of these awards. They have been conferred on a prestigious group of 156 artists. The list stretches across multiple generations of South African artists. A new hope grows every year as bright new names are added. This year feels fittingly fantastic.