Regarded as one of the most prestigious competitions recognising young artists from the African continent, the Absa L'Atelier art competition provides winners with the opportunity to develop their talents abroad.
Phoka Nyokong is one of this year's top achievers, walking away with the Gerard Sekoto Award for the most promising emerging South African artist aged 25 to 35.
On Weekend Breakfast, he tells Africa Melane how important it is for up-and-coming artists to be recognised by the leaders in the industry and reveals his "secret" for success.
It's really humbling because it's dedicated to the memory of Gerard Sekoto who was of course one of the early black pioneers of visual arts in South Africa.— Phoka Nyokong, Winner of 2019 Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award
It's really important to know that it doesn't come easily, it comes with being humble and being dedicated to your work.— Phoka Nyokong, Winner of 2019 Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award
Nyokong won the award with a photographic portfolio which successfully portrays the themes of "gender (mis)identity, collective social anxiety and the temporality of the human material experience".
The artist says his process is to focus on aesthetics and doing what he loves, with a concept then organically sparking ideas.
I started producing the work and later on I started asking myself what it really means. I feel like it addresses gender identities and gender mis-identities because when you look at the figures, you're not presented with the facial features of the sitters, you're presented with a human being.— Phoka Nyokong, Winner of 2019 Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award
It begs the question of society: what informs this habit of assigning importance to people based on their gender and we know where that has led us, for instance the current incidence of gender-based violence.— Phoka Nyokong, Winner of 2019 Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award
Are they less important if they are male or are they more important? As a viewer you have to decipher what it means to you, yourself.— Phoka Nyokong, Winner of 2019 Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award
What's next for this groundbreaking young artist?
Nyokong says he will continue to focus on violence against women and children, as well as xenophobic violence when he takes up his artist's residency in Paris next year.
Take a listen here:
The Absa L'Atelier winners' work is on show at the Absa Art Gallery in Johannesburg.
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : [LISTEN] Meet Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award winner