Amina Agueznay wins the Norval Sovereign African art prize 2024 grand prize

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Norval Foundation and The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) have announced the latest winner for the 2024 iteration of the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize, crowning Amina Ageuznay the Grand Prize Winner.

During the private exhibition opening dedicated to the finalists for the NSAAP, the Moroccan artist was pronounced the grand prize winner of the 3rd annual Norval Sovereign African Art Prize. The winning work, Portal #1, is tactile and sensory, featuring natural materials including palm husk, untreated wool and palm leaves. The work originated from an invitation by eco-architect and anthropologist Salima Naji to lead workshops for the women of Tissekmoudine, a “ksar” or settlement in southern Morocco. Central to the “ksar’s” identity are its doors. During these workshops, participants engaged in self-observation, documenting their daily routines and spatial interactions. The women’s sketches of these doors were transformed into wool weavings. Agueznay developed her own interpretations of these doors, incorporating alternative materials from the oasis like talefdamt (palm husk) and ifraoune (palm leaves). Agueznay’s work was selected through a rigorous ajudication process by a panel of five global judges, and beat out 374 entry works and 26 shortlisted finalist works to secure the win. Agueznay is represented by Loft Art Gallery in Marrakech, Morroco.

As an architect, Agueznay embarks on journeys through urban and rural regions across Morocco seeking out artisans to document their indigenous design techniques and traditions. This research profoundly influences her own contemporary interventions, emphasizing the collaborative essence of creation, especially in the realm of textile work.

Agueznay had the following to say, upon winning the prize, “I am so honoured and that I am being awarded a Prize from another part of the continent other than where I am from is that much greater! The recognition means the world to me and a win such as this reassures me that the way I have been pursing my work and how I want to work in the future is the correct way.”

The third annual of the annual prize, the winner announcement and exhibition opening event served as one of the opening events for the VIP programming of the annual Investec Cape Town Art Fair. A board of 59 independent art professionals from across the globe nominated 160 artists, who ultimately submitted 375 works for the prize.

The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize entries were judged by a board of international art professionals, namely Ashraf Jamal – Writer and Researcher, ArtBankSA and University of Johannesburg; Heba El Kayal – Chief Curatorial Consultant, Norval Foundation; Marie-Ann Yemsi – independent Exhibition Curator and Contemporary Art Consultant; Ngaire Blankenberg – Founder and Director, Institute for Creative Repair; and Sean O’Toole – Writer, Editor and Curator.

Reflecting on the judging process and the winner, judge Ashraf Jamal said, “A great final decision has been made. After hours of deep reflection the jury stayed true to the greater goal of the prize – the choice of an artist with an enduring vision of the lives and triumphs of woman of the African desert. The continent is massive and complex, the drives exhiliratingly diverse, as it should be on a continent that will gift the earth a ‘human face’. These words, by Steve Bantu Biko, express Africa’s greater purpose, and the role of our artist’s in fulfilling this noble vision”

The NSAAP celebrates the practices of leading contemporary artists and aims to benefit them by further increasing their exposure to an international audience. As the Grand Prize Winner, Amina Agueznay will be awarded a cash prize to the value of US$35,000, the opportunity for a solo exhibition at Norval Foundation as well as an artist residency in London supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

The remaining 26 finalists’ works will be auctioned off online, in an auction hosted by Sothebys, hosted until 20 February 2024 19h00 SAST, offering viewers the chance to bid on their favourite works. The funds raised by the auction will be split between the artists and the art education mission of the Norval Foundation. Registrations and bids are facilitated via Sothebys Auction webpage.

“The standard of this year’s entries has been phenomenal and the auction provides collectors a chance to acquire work by some of the most exciting artists of today, while directly supporting the artists themselves and the wonderful ongoing educational work provided by the Norval Foundation. Sotheby’s is delighted to support such a great cause and remains dedicated to showcasing the very best talent from across the African continent” , shared Sotheby’s senior Director of Modern and Contemporary African Art, Hannay O’ Leary.

Previous winners of NSAAP include Famakan Magassa (b.1997, Mali) and Bonolo Kavula (b.1992, South Africa), Alioune Daigne (b. 1985, Senegal) and Rene Tavares (b. 1983 São Tomé and Principe).

The Public Vote Prize for NSAAP 2024 still remains to be awarded based on the highest number of public votes received at the end of the exhibition period, with voting taking place online and in person. The public is invited to view the shortlisted works at Norval Foundation and vote for their prefered work. The Public Vote Prize will be unveiled in May 2024 and the recipient will be awarded a $2000.00 cash prize.

The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize 2024 is curated by Seth Kriger and is open for viewing until May 2024.

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