Phoka Nyokong wins 2019 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award


Photo Nyokong 3©Phoka Nyokong - Collector-Gatherer II
Photographic Digital print on aluminium 


On 3 September 2019, Phoka Nyokong walked away with the esteemed Absa L'Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award, which is bestowed on the most promising emerging South African artist aged 25 to 35 to enter the competition.


The Embassy of France in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa, and the Alliance Francaise network, in partnership with Absa and SANAVA, introduced the award in 2004 to honour Sekoto's legacy, which changed the narrative of how the work and lives of black South African artists is perceived, valued and documented.


Nyokong was selected as the Gerard Sekoto winner because his photography brought through the themes of gender (mis)identity, collective social anxiety and the temporality of the human material experience.


"The work, which uses the medium of studio photography to create a performative narrative, does this by imagining the human as a being whose social identity cannot be pinned down to mere rigid gender associations – a being whose socialized nature means that they may only negotiate even their most intimate emotions, particularly their fears, in the sociable structures within which they are born and bred," he says.


Nyokong, as the winner of the Gerard Sekoto award, will enjoy a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in 2020, a travelling exhibition through the Alliance Française network in South Africa in 2021, and French lessons through the Alliance Française.


"This competition, which has been supported for more than a decade by the Embassy of France, the French Institute and the Alliance Française, has created a true cultural dialogue between our two countries. Through a vibrant experience in France, and reinforced international recognition, it has allowed young artists to inspire and be inspired, to teach and learn, to explore and exhibit in a broader way," says Ambassador of France in South Africa, Aurélien Lechevallier.


The other top winners of the Absa L'Atelier Competition include Nigerian-based visual artist Raji Bamidele, South African multi-media artist Nkhensani Rihlampfu, and Tanzanian visual artist Winifrid Luena.


Photo Nyokong 2

©Phoka Nyokong - Embrace III
Photographic Digital print on aluminium



Previous Gerard Sekoto award winners: Philiswa Lila (2018), Banele Khoza (2017), Matete Motubatse (2016), Natalie Moore (2015), Mbavhalelo Nekhavhambe (2014), Mongezi Ncaphayi (2013), Bambo Sibiya (2012), Isabel Mertz (2011), Bongumenzi Ngobese (2010), Nyaniso Lindi (2009), Retha Ferguson (2008), Nina Barnett (2007), Nomusa Makhubu (2006), Lawrence Lemoana (2005) and Billie Zangewa (2004).