First K21 Global Art Award Goes to Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela

Interdisciplinary South African artist Senzeni Marasela wins the award for her work on race, identity and gender inequalities during Apartheid.

First K21 Global Art Award Goes to Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela

South African artist Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela has won the inaugural K21 Global Art Award. The Award recognizes the vision and courage of artists at the beginning or in the middle of their careers and will in the future be awarded annually to internationally recognized artists under the age of 45. The award contributes to the museum’s programmatic collection expansion and adds significant international voices to K21’s holdings.

The prize is awarded by the Friends of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and is endowed with 70,000 euros. The K21 Global Art Award nomination jury is made up of five renowned curators* from around the world. The 2022/23 jury consists of Doryun Chong (M+, Hong Kong), Koyo Kouoh (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town), Omar Kholeif (Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE), Oluremi C. Onabanjo (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), and Jochen Volz (Pinacoteca doEstado de São Paulo, Brazil).

“I am delighted that my work is having an impact here in Düsseldorf – and hopefully soon beyond the city limits. All my adult life I have worked with dedication as an artist, and I see this award as an incentive to work with even more conviction and determination. I am grateful to the jury of the K21 Global Art Award and the Friends of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen for believing in my artistic practice. I hope that this is the beginning of great discussions and cooperations. I also hope that this is a journey that will inspire young artists* around the world, especially in Africa.” Senzeni Marasela, April 2023

Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela (b. 1977, in Thokoza, South Africa) is an interdisciplinary artist whose œuvre combines performance, photography, video, embroidered textiles, printmaking and installations. In 1998 she completed her art studies at the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. Her work has been widely exhibited in South Africa, Europe, and the United States, and is in important international collections. In 2015, Marasela was represented at the 56th Venice Biennale. She lives and works in Soweto, South Africa.

At the center of the selection of works acquired for the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen is a red dress. Theodora Mthetyane, the fictional alter ego of the artist Senzeni Marasela, received it as a gift from her husband, Gebane, when he left the country for the big city of Johannesburg to find work. The ornamentally printed Iseshweshwe dress is worn by married women in Xhosa culture and is widely worn by the rural population. Theodora also wore it every day, while she waited unsuccessfully for years for Gebane to return. Senzeni Marasela, who uses Theodora to allude to her mother’s story and to the situation of many South African women during the apartheid era, wore the dress herself every day for a long period of six years (2013 to 2019). With this haunting performance, she embodied Theodora’s story, dedicated to the situation of waiting, loneliness and hope, experiencing different reactions ranging from identification to discrimination. The project Waiting for Gebane resulted in Maraselaerster large institutional solo exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA in 2020, in which the groups of works presented here were also exhibited.



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