Mbokodo Awards convenor and producer Carol Bouwer. Pic: Supplied

In the Mbokodo Awards’ 9th year of celebrating women in arts and their work to promote arts and cultural heritage in the country, founder and convener Carol Bouwer was ecstatic of the growth of these home-grown awards.

Taken from the isiZulu saying ‘‘Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo" meaning - "You strike a woman, you strike a rock" - the awards were established from a backdrop of sisterhood and the need to honour those who upheld South Africa's heritage through the arts.

Past winners include celebrated artists such as Sandra Prinsloo, Zanele Muholi, Madosini Manqina, Tumi Morake, Terry Pheto, Nomzamo Mbatha and Mary Twala, among others.

And at the heart of her brainchild was also the need to remedy the gender imbalance within the arts industry where Bouwer believes women do not get the recognition that is due to them.

Recipients of this prestigious award range from visual arts, theatre, media, film, traditional and indigenous arts, and even humanitarians who have contributed immensely to the preservation of culture.

This year's awards are set for November 7 at Melrose Arch.

“The realisation that the heritage sector has been really good at exploiting women but never at celebrating them was what created the need for me to stage an awards ceremony that spotlights South African women and their achievements,” said Bouwer.

“Through the Mbokodo Awards, we've been able to create a bedrock of incredible artists and inspire women of our nation, and with that bedrock, we've been able to embed other women who may have been previously ignored. We got South Africans to call their names out on a daily basis, just as they would call out a Brenda Fassie or Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and that alone, has been a big thing,” she said.

Past performer Brenda Mtambo at the Mbokodo Awards held at the ICC Arena, in Durban

Bouwer actively wanted to highlight the good done by women beyond our shores.

“These sentiments of women's role in nation building are a general feeling I have, and not just within the arts, that society should be doing more to pay homage to the contributions that women are making in South Africa's society.

“Right through the eight years, I think what has been amazing for me to see is not just the fact that South African women are talented, but the discovery of the generosity of spirit that our people have,” she said.

The body of work and artists chosen are those that reflect South Africa as it is now and what is happening on the ground.

“With the awards gaining such fame, the selection process has become a little difficult as we go into productions and review various work in secret. But we do see people sending us leads to view various work and follow up on things we might not otherwise have known about,” explained Bouwer.

This year, there will be no announcement of nominees. Instead, winners will be announced on the night.

The evening's entertainment will include Msaki. Another highlight will be the inclusion of some of the most iconic local artists to present awards to their counterparts, “people South Africa may have forgotten, but we bring them forth because they are the carriers of this heritage we so much celebrate today,” said Bouwer.

The Sunday Independent