Latitudes co-founder Lucy MacGarry.
Latitudes co-founder Lucy MacGarry.
Image: Supplied

Latitudes, the online destination for African contemporary art, has joined forces with ANNA, producers of SA’s first locally manufactured , environmentally friendly sanitary range to establish the ANNA Award. 

This prestigious award will recognise one emerging women-identifying artist with financial support, a month-long residency in Franschhoek and visibility on the Latitudes online platform. We spoke to Latitudes cofounder Lucy MacGarry to find out more about this exciting opportunity. 

Can you tell us a little bit about conceptualising the ANNA Award as a new contemporary art prize?  

The ANNA Award was conceptualised to nurture a new generation of women-identifying visual artists within SA for our inaugural edition, and then expanding our vision to the broader continent. As two female-centric brands, we wanted to correct an imbalance within our contemporary art world — one in which recognition and representation is still disappointingly skewed towards male artists. Additionally, female artists’ works are still valued less than those of their male peers. This disparity is by no means exclusive to SA, with only 11% of all international museum acquisitions between 2009 and 2019 created by women. There is also the debate throughout history among art scholars about the “male gaze,” or the ways in which men regard women’s bodies as subject matter, both nude and clothed. We want to see what happens when women create portraits. Do they look at their subjects differently? These were just a few of the issues debated between myself, the Latitudes team and Juanita Kotzé, creative director of ANNA, during our discussions when conceptualising the award.

Why has it been important for both organisations to work together in focusing on work produced by women-identifying artists? 

Essentially, Latitudes and ANNA have come together to give space for women-identifying stories. Both brands are passionate about creativity and inclusivity. The medium of visual art presents itself as a perfect vehicle to launch a long-term collaboration with ever-expanding potential.

As the first and largest platform dedicated to contemporary art from Africa, latitudes.online levels the playing field by bringing together artworks presented by galleries, curators, studios, not-for-profit organisations and independent artists themselves. The site is designed to help new collectors discover creativity from the continent in a non-intimidating and accessible way. Passionate as we are about identifying and nurturing new talent, we also believe in the need for education and skills development. And so in 2021, we established Latitudes Education as a means to directly mentor visual artists on their journey to becoming successful entrepreneurs. 

ANNA, the producers of SA’s first organic menstrual product range is taking the lead in creating environmentally friendly sanitary products. The ANNA team believes that women who are conscious of their ecological footprint shouldn’t have to compromise comfort in the process of lowering their environmental impact. By providing environmentally conscious women with a real alternative to traditional plastic sanitary products, ANNA is empowering women to take ownership of not only their own physical wellbeing, but the wellbeing of the environment, too.

How is this award different from other art awards in SA, and why is this the moment right moment for its emergence? 

This is the moment to celebrate women artists who show extraordinary originality, imagination and dedication in their creative careers. One of the most exciting aspects of the ANNA Award is the fact that we have, in fact, done away with traditional selection criteria. There is no age restriction, no requirement for the length of ones professional experience or formal training. The only prerequisite for the 2022 edition of the award is that artists are currently residing in SA. The intention here is to ensure that our home-grown talent is recognised before we extend the award to the rest of the African continent.

You have selected a range of incredible women who are sitting on your judging committee. What do they all bring to this process? 

We are lucky to have an esteemed group of women with such varied experience leading the artist selection process. 

As a senior specialist at Aspire Art and with a long career in the art advisory arena, Makgati Molebatsi brings her honed ability to identify a winning artist with the potential for a long term and successful career in the arts. Marianne Fassler has spent over three decades in the fashion business. Working with countless creatives over the years, we are excited by her ability to spot individuality, identity, craftsmanship and diversity within a creative outlook. It is also important that our winner’s work inspires a broader women-identifying and young generation of artists. It is for this reason that we are thrilled to welcome Candice Chirwa to the team. Chirwa is an academic, author, TEDx speaker, podcaster, and social entrepreneur. Also known as the ‘Minister of Menstruation’, she is a thought leader with an avid interest in gender and youth issues in SA. 702 radio and TV anchor, Refiloe Mpakanyane loves researching and conducting a good interview. Her personal passions include the rapid growth of technology and creative entrepreneurship, two aspects that are key to any contemporary artist’s success. Likewise, public speaker and personality, Jo-Ann Strauss is passionate about creating an environment in her home country that helps people grow their own businesses.Last, but by no means least, Nina Carew is part of the curatorial team at Latitudes and heads the first iteration of the ANNA Award. She holds a master’s degree in curatorial studies and has recently run Latitudes’ two educational programmes, CuratorLab and ArtistLab. Nina is passionate about emerging voices and giving a space for untapped talent to thrive.

What factors will your committee be taking into consideration when judging a nomination for this award. 

Once the applications are in, our selection committee will review each artist’s submission against a set of qualitative and conceptual criteria. The committee will be asking questions such as, is the artist’s subject matter compelling? Do they make the most of their medium? Are the artist’s ideas created in a medium that best expresses them? Composition, line, shape, space, form, tone, texture, pattern, colour and composition — do they all work well to create a strong image? And then lastly, something slightly more practical.  Are the photographs of the artists’ works clear enough for the committee to properly assess their work. 

Why would you encourage artists to try their hand at entering?

So, the winning artist will not only receive a R100,000 cash prize, a year’s supply of ANNA products and a month’s art residency at the beautiful new PLAAS #inplaasvan in Franschhoek, they will also be invited to join the Latitudes Online community. This will open up the opportunity to sell their work to a global audience on an ongoing basis, while also receiving constructive curatorial feedback from the experienced Latitudes team. Yet another reason to apply is that the 12 top finalists will be presented to our Latitudes audience, who will be invited to vote for an Audience Award winner. This artist will receive a profile on Latitudes Online and a year’s supply of ANNA products. The entrance process is also very quick and simple. 

Applications for the ANNA Award are now open via latitudes.online

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