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Legends pass the baton


There was a real sense of a baton being passed when the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) announced the 2015 winners of the ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards and ImpACT Awards for young professionals at Sun International’s Maslow Hotel in Sandton this week.

Don Mattera: ‘A poet, like a prophet, is not known in his time’ Pic: Sue Olswang

The room was filled with legendary figures, the likes of Caiphus Semenya (Lifetime Award: Music), Don Mattera (Lifetime Award: Literature) and musician Sibongile Khumalo (Judge) on Monday, but the focus kept shifting to the next generation. Hardly an award winner neglected to mention the #feesmustfall student movement and, in the words of Omar Badsha (Lifetime Award: Visual Art), the importance of the next generation “taking back history”.

Badsha added that the protesting students were “creating a new space that we have been trying to recapture for a long time”.

Thembi Mtshali-Jones (Lifetime Award: Theatre) soon gave us a reason to look forward, not backward when she reminded us of a time in our history that none of us seeks to recapture. She remembered when she was travelling with the hit show Ipi Ntombi, which went on to critical acclaim on London’s West End and on New York City’s Broadway, and the cast often had to sleep in caravans because hotels refused to accept black guests.

Caiphus Semenya. Pic: Sue Olswang

Other living legends, including Johnny Mekoa (Lifetime Award: Arts Advocacy) and Alfred Hinkel (Lifetime Award: Dance), made us smile and wipe away a tear, remembering happy times with the ‘late greats’ who are now playing their harps or painting angels in the great auditorium in the sky.

Thanks and praise was also given for the abundance of talent in the next generation of artists and activists. For the past five years, the ImpACT Awards have recognised young professionals in the arts who are in the first five years of their career but have have already had an impact on their respective industries on home soil. This year the category was expanded to include a young artist in the dance fraternity.

The finalists were nominated by the public and judged by an expert panel, with the following winners taking home the prizes on the night: POPArt for Theatre, Laurie Wiid van Heerden for Design, Benon Lutaaya for Visual Art, Lindiwe Maxolo for Music and Singing and Letlhogonolo Nche for Dance. Jessica Denyschen was awarded a Special Honorary Award for her contribution in South Africa’s dance industry.

The convener of the judging panel Jayesperi Moopen, congratulating all finalists and winners, said the ACT ImpACT Awards had “come to appropriately reflect artistic achievement of young and talented emerging artists who have displayed imagination, boldness and risk-taking to produce work of a high quality and setting standards of excellence”. – African News Agency

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