Beckurts was born with diastrophic dysplasia, a condition affecting skeletal and muscular development, and has undergone several operations, including a neck-fusion procedure when he was five years old.
He took up art lessons when he was six to regain his fine motor skills after surgery.
Beckurts’s winning artwork, called The Aftermath, was inspired by his experiences on the Garden Route last year following the devastating fires in the region.
After his victory the matric pupil at Bishops Diocesan College was awarded a R30 000 bursary to study at the academy in Woodstock next year.
“This artwork was done during the December 2017 school holidays on my grandparent’s smallholding in the Elandskraal District between Knysna and Sedgefield, six months after the fire that ravaged the area.
“My grandparents had a harrowing experience and a narrow escape from the flames that surrounded their house. If you were to sit on this empty deck chair (featured in the work) you would see encouraging signs of revival in nature: patches of green regrowth and the occasional wildflower.
“This shows the power of nature and the strength of the human spirit, and it brings me hope,” he said.
Senior lecturer at the academy, Gustav Vermeulen, said this year’s competition drew more than 280 entries from young artists across the country.
“The criteria for choosing a winner included technical skill, versatility in handling the medium and also the artist’s ability to offer a conceptual explanation - to speak in an informed way of how they observed and interpreted their subject matter.
"Michael showed exceptional observational skill - there is a level of maturity in his work that is highly unusual for someone his age,” Vermeulen said.
Beckurts’s other projects include detailed botanical artworks, which he sells to a small fan-base.
He also created a series of landscape drawings during a 2016 school trip, the Bishop’s Epic, which he turned into cards and sold to raise money for an under-resourced school.