FNB Art Joburg has announced the multi-disciplinary artist Dada Khanyisa as the winner of this year’s FNB Art Prize. Khanyisa’s rich practice explores the human condition in the urban context, commenting on social, financial, architectural and recreational themes and systems.
“Receiving this prize is affirming, especially at this point in my career. Looking back at what has been five years of building a practice, developing a style and coming into my own as a maker of things, this prize is an unexpected but welcome conclusion to the introductory era,” says Khanyisa
FNB Art Joburg is Africa’s leading and longest-running contemporary art fair. The fair aims to support and grow Africa’s cultural offering beyond the confines of the fair. Managing Director of FNB Art Joburg, Mandla Sibeko says: “When you look back at the calibre of artists who have won this prize, they do bring a lot of inspiration to all of us. They have used such interesting materials to interrogate important issues. Dada Khanyisa is no different because they have contributed so much to the contemporary art landscape of South Africa not only in theme but the form and style of their work.”
Khanyisa, as part of their victory, will have a solo exhibition at the largest repository of art on the continent, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, alongside a cash prize. Previous winners include Wycliffe Mundopa, Lady Skollie, Bronwyn Katz, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Peju Alatise, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Turiya Magadlela, Portia Zvavahera, Nelisiwe Xaba, Mocke J van Veuren, and Kudzanai Chiurai.
Bonga Sebesho, FNB Brand Experience Head said: “we remain committed to supporting and growing the arts and creative economy in South Africa and Broader Africa. FNB’s 15-year involvement as a sponsor of this prestigious platform demonstrates our commitment to be a trusted partner that empowers artists to be change agents through their artwork and the communities that they live in.”
I’d like to thank FNB Art Joburg for the prize, for watering my practice with this validationDada Khanyisa
Khanyisa – who was on Wanted’s inaugural Young Vital Artists list in 2021 - was born in Umzimkhulu, raised in Johannesburg, and now lives and works in Cape Town. They studied Traditional and Digital Animation at the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, before going to the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art and completing a Bachelor of Fine Art degree, where they received the 2016 Simon Gerson Prize. They have been a merit winner at the 2015 SA Taxi Art Awards where their work was featured on ten operating taxis in Johannesburg. Currently, Khanyisa is participating in the second residency at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris, following their 2018 participation in a Fountainhead Residency in Miami.
“I’d like to thank FNB Art Joburg for the prize, for watering my practice with this validation. Then to my family, for not asking any questions and supporting my dreams in very real ways like commissioning me to make portraits when I was still a kid to my mom for financing the foundation of the dream. I hope people see this and it encourages them to do right by the artists they see coming up in their families,” says Khanyisa.
Bambi’phone was their first solo exhibition at Stevenson in Cape Town in 2018, and they have since participated in various group shows (and another solo in 2020), from the Cape to Washington DC.
What is your artistic practice?
I would describe my practice as an open-ended conversation. When I start or approach a work, I don't have an idea of what the outcome will look like, I'm always open to adding and subtracting, balancing colours out and trying to find visual harmony, which is why I refer to it as an open-ended conversation because there's no one direction that I approach things with.
What themes, ideas, philosophies, etc, does your work focus on/grapple with?
I'm interested in social dynamics, how people relate, how they engage, how they choose to present themselves, who they choose to have around them, and the places they choose to occupy. I'm interested in what people, particularly around my age group do, the things we have to deal with and the weight of being alive as a South African or as an individual in this world. My themes range from happy hour activities to romantic dynamics, and how people choose to go about their day-to-day.
Describe your journey to this moment in time?
My journey as a commercial artist began after I graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art. I've been in some group shows, I've had some solo shows, I've been part of some residency programs. I've collaborated, I've done some brand work, some commissions; there are a number of things that I feel I've covered as a contemporary commercial artist.
My highlights have been the opportunities of residencies and the process of putting together a show. Those experiences have been monumental moments in my five-year young career.
What does this recognition mean to you?
The FNB Art Prize means a lot, it's a big validator. [The prize is] something that reminds me that I'm moving in the right direction. For me, and the people around me, all of the work, the patience, the consistency and all of the things that have been put into practice; have come to fruition. This recognition reminds you to keep being you, to keep moving, to keep at it, in the same way, but consistently.
What are your next steps?
I think my next steps have to do with seeing some ideas through, particularly in the format of a show I'm looking forward to next year. I'm also interested in going back to school and studying something else, upscaling, challenging myself and getting to learn something that's different from what I've been exposed to. I'm looking forward to, hopefully, more collaborations and also just seeing what the community will do; we're all growing together.
Visit the FNB Art Joburg website to get your ticket.