This November sees five of South Africa’s most innovative and talented artistic individuals being awarded one of the country’s most sought-after arts prizes.

Since its inception in 1981, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards (SBYAA) have served as a marker for the artistic work that’s being created, and aspired towards, across the country. This year’s batch of winners proves that the SBYAA still seek to reward passion, dedication, and a desire to carve out new ways of creating and engaging with art and the world around us.

The 2020 SBYAA winners are Blessing Ngobeni (Visual Art), Nthato Mokgata (also known as Spoek Mathambo) (Music), Lulu Mlangeni (Dance), Jefferson Tshabalala (Theatre), and Sisonke Xonti (Jazz).

This year marks 36 years of Standard Bank’s sponsorship of the SBYAA and sees each of these young artists receiving a cash incentive, as well as a commission to premier a new work or exhibit on the Main Programme of the 46th National Arts Festival, taking place in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from 25 June to 5 July 2020.

About the artists:

Nthato Mokgata is a musician, artist, producer, rapper, and singer-songwriter. Through his solo career and projects such as Batuk and Fantasma, he has toured the globe extensively. He is also the director of Future Sounds of Mzansi, a documentary exploring South Africa’s cultural landscape, 20 years into democracy.

Blessing Ngobeni is a fine artist who strives to simultaneously uplift others, while challenging the status quo through his art. Using painting, sculpture, video, audio installations and live performance Ngobeni speaks truth to power, continually highlighting and questioning corrupted systems of power in South Africa. Ngobeni also mentors and provides support for young artists.

Sisonke Xonti is a jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. A passionate collaborator, Xonti has worked with, and performed alongside, artists such as Hugh Masekela, Lira, Bokani Dyer, and Simphiwe Dana to name a few. His full-length album, Iyonde, was released in 2017.

Lulu Prudence Mlangeni is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. Mlangeni’s practice incorporates a strong element of texture to the art of movement and has seen her perform on stages across the world. Her recent dance piece, CONFINED, is inspired by the political stalwart, Winnie Madikizela Mandela.

Jefferson Tshabalala is a writer, director, performer, and the founder and owner of the live arts production house, Kiri Pink Nob Arts (Pty) Ltd. Tshabalala merges poetry, hip-hop, comedy, and traditional dramatic arts to communicate nuanced and far-reaching stories. His recent work Ekasi Lam – An Ode to Kwaito premiered at the 2019 National Arts Festival.