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David Koloane is honoured for pioneering the development of black art during apartheid

David Koloane. Picture: Supplied

David Koloane. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 27, 2022

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The life and legacy of the pioneering artist, writer and activist Dr David Kolane will once again be honoured for his immense contribution to the arts industry as the annual David Kolaone Awards resumes after a two-year hiatus.

Founded in 2010, the David Koloane Award benefits emerging artists who demonstrate passion, dedication and potential for excellence.

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The David Koloane Bag Factory Artists’ Studios are calling upon emerging young artists to take part in the 2022 David Koloane Award.

The award is open to emerging contemporary visual South African-based artists (aged 21-35 and not represented by a commercial gallery) working in the fields of painting, drawing, print, sculpture, digital, video and performance-based art. The application is open until Sunday, May 8.

Koloane has been a pioneer in the development of the black art community in South Africa since the ’70s. In his paintings, he explored questions about political injustice and human rights. Koloane is considered to have been “an influential artist and writer of the apartheid years” in South Africa.

The winner of the David Koloane Award receives an intensive eight-week residency at the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios, mentorship from Bag Factory and established artists, and the opportunity to present their work at the prestigious FNB Art Joburg.

Three Sisters by David Koloane. Picture: Supplied

In conversation with the current recipient of the David Koloane Award, Helen Uambembe, says winning the prestigious award was a dream come true.

Uambembe said: “When I won the award in 2019, it changed my life. I got to experience a community of talented artists, who I still keep in touch with.

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“I got mentored by artists I studied with in art school, like Tracy Rose and Donna Kumkane, also the amazing Lady Skollie and Bettina Malcomess.

“I had worked at the fair in 2017 and 2018 as an assistant, and I had always said to myself that one day I would exhibit here and I did in 2019. It was interesting to see how people interacted with my work.”

Uambembe’s work is primarily performance and research based.

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Her Angolan heritage and her father’s experiences as a soldier in the 32 Battalion, an SANDF military unit made up of black Angolan men, are recurring themes that explore narratives surrounding the battalion.

She uses various mediums, including printmaking, video and photography.

“I use these mediums to tell stories about my history and personal experiences. I often borrow from African folk tales, memory and oral history told within my community. I look at ideas of memory, history, more especially the history of the Pomfret Community, ideas of borders and home as well as my Angolan Heritage.

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“The event that changed my family’s life, and may have even played a role in my existence – like my family fleeing the Angolan civil war, my father’s role in the military during what South Africa calls the Border Wars that took place in Namibia and Angola.

“There are parts of history not well recorded, especially when it comes to the account of black people and black women.”

Born in Alexandra in 1938, Koloane received his art training from 1974 to 1977 at the Bill Ainslie Studios, which later became the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He co-founded Johannesburg’s first black art gallery and was the head of Fine Arts at the Federative Union of Black Artists.

He was instrumental in establishing studio space for black artists at the Fordsburg Artists’ Studios (now known as the Bag Factory). He also founded the Thupelo Workshops in South Africa, a concept that spread to Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The creative icon died at his Johannesburg home on June 30, 2019.

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