Benigno Tengo Memories of flying lessons.
Benigno Tengo Memories of flying lessons.
Image: Supplied

A sure-fire way to kick-start a career as an artist is to do well in prominent art competitions. Around the world, these competitions, usually medium-specific, offer not only prizes and prestige but vital exposure and credibility for new and emerging artists.

Until now the African continent has not been known for the quality, or indeed the quantity, of its art competitions. That picture is changing, with a bold new pan-African competition initiative under way, titled the Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI).

Driven by the enterprising African Art Galleries Association (AAGA), and now in its third edition, the prize is dedicated to supporting emerging contemporary painters and painting across the continent. The 16 finalists this year hail from eight African countries — Rwanda, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Algeria, Sudan, Kenya, Angola and SA. The competition is intended to champion young African painters by motivating, supporting and developing skills, collaboration and collector engagement to ensure the sustainability and vibrancy of art practices and art sectors on the continent. To be eligible for EPI, artists must be under 30, living and working on the continent and have painting as their primary discipline. A nominating committee made up of members of AAGA, guest experts, and one of the previous year’s finalists proposes new talent working in the medium of painting, which is then reduced to the top 15-20 finalists, who are then invited to present three works for exhibition and a juried prize in the final stage of the competition.

An interesting commercial platform for the competition is provided by a collaboration with prominent SA auction house Strauss & Co. All the finalist artists and artworks will be showcased on AAGA, EPI and Strauss & Co platforms simultaneously from February 9. Works will then be available for sale via a Strauss & Co dedicated auction on February 14 to 21.

An online programme of studio visits to the finalists, and panel discussions in collaboration with Strauss & Co will run from February 10 to15 and culminate in a Strauss & Co hosted VIP evening to announce the three cash prize winners, live in Cape Town, on February 16.

Imibala yothando (Muhle umakoti asafika) 100 x 100 cm, Acrylics on canvas 2021, Khotso Motsoeneng (002).
Imibala yothando (Muhle umakoti asafika) 100 x 100 cm, Acrylics on canvas 2021, Khotso Motsoeneng (002).
Image: Supplied

The winners will be selected by expert artist jurors: Nicky Marais (Namibia), Jonathan Freemantle (SA) and Lavar Munroe (Bahamas/US). “While contemporary African art has been on the rise internationally, developing skills and engaging the international art world is still a challenge for many young painters on the continent,” said Valerie Kabov, director of First Floor Gallery in Harare and co-founder of both AAGA and EPI. “EPI intends to help motivate, support and develop the practices and careers of young African visual artists. Supporting emerging painters is not just enormously significant culturally, it is to ensure the economic sustainability of local art sectors. EPI was developed with a holistic vision for art on the continent.”

The addition of the commercial platform in collaboration with Strauss, as well as the hands-on experience of broadcast studio visits in the run-up to the climax of the competition, certainly make it stand out, as much as it vanguardist position in showcasing new African art.

Ravelle Pillay The Birthday Party 2021.
Ravelle Pillay The Birthday Party 2021.
Image: Supplied

The 2022 EPI finalists are: Christian King Dusabe (Rwanda), Sana Chamekh (Tunisia), Malebona Maphutse (SA), Natnael Ashebir (Ethiopia), Paul Wallington (SA), Mouna Bennamani (Algeria), Khotso Motsoeneng (SA) , Abubakar Moaz (Sudan), Muriithi Samuel (Kenya), Boemo Diale (SA), Solmon Kifle (Ethiopia), Joyce Jazz (Angola), Safa Attyaoui (Tunisia), Ravelle Pillay (SA), Benigno Tengo (Angola), Isaac Iirumva (Rwanda).

Their paintings, in-depth profiles and the programme for the competition will be on view on the EPI website emergingpaintinginvitational.com.

The sale of finalists work will take place via the Strauss website: straussart.co.za

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