Famakan Magassa (b. 1997, Mali) is the winner of the second edition of the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize for his work ‘La ballade noctambule’ (2022). The award was announced in Cape Town at the Norval Foundation exhibition opening of competing contemporary artworks by 30 finalists selected from 326 entries from 15 African countries.
The Grand Prize includes R500 000, the offer of a solo show at the Norval Foundation, and a trophy miniature of the artwork ‘Athena’ by Nasser Athena, whose bronze original is at the London City Airport approach. Magassa could not accept the award in person but delivered a prerecorded acceptance speech in French, expressing his delight.
The programme notes elaborate: “A female kôredugaw carts her inebriated partner off in a wheelbarrow. The woman’s desperate gaze into a dark, starless sky suggests an overall anguish, while her single stiletto, the cart’s misshapen wheel, and the drunkard’s lolling tongue humorously lighten the mood. It is Magassa’s skill for drawing humour and pathos from quotidian yet existential contradictions that sets his work apart. Reality will always be present in the allegory, poetry will sometimes adorn the discourse, and joyful irreverence will be an integral part of the message.”
The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize nominees are selected by independent experts in the arts, who have no commercial interest in the artists. The shorlist and winner are determined by world-class art experts including last year’s winner Bonolo Kavula; writer, curator, and museum director David Elliot; independent exhibition producer Janine Gaëlle Dieudji; exhibition curator and contemporary art consultant Marie-Ann Yemsi; and Chief Executive and Director, Design Museum, London, Tim Marlow.
The Art Prize celebrates the work of some of the most esteemed contemporary artists today and exposes them to an international audience. SAF chairman Howard Bilton, who founded the organisation with Tiffany Pinkstone in 2003, has run art prizes worldwide for the last 19 years. “The sole aim is to raise money for charity and to help disadvantaged children using art as therapy and rehabilitation,” he said.
This collaboration with the prestigious Norval Foundation realises that long-held ambition.
Owen Martin, CEO of Norval Foundation, said of the initiative: “Our partnership with The Sovereign Art Foundation epitomises the power of collaboration to achieve shared goals. Working together, we aim to further arts education across the continent, developing important resources for learners and educators, while also fostering opportunities for leading contemporary artists. The resources generated through this collaboration will go to the selected artists and Norval Foundation’s Education Programme.”
Bilton said that arguably the most important prize is the Public Vote Prize of R25 000, which will be determined by those who vote after viewing the Finalists’ Exhibition online or in person at Norval Foundation until 20 March 2023. The artworks are for sale, except that of the Grand Prize winner. Bidding is open and Sotheby’s will auction the finalists’ artworks on 14 February 2023. Proceeds will be split evenly between the artists and Norval Foundation.