Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the 2008 Sasol Wax Art Award, University of Johannesburg Art Centre

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13 Oct 2008

Programme Director
Prof van der Merwe, our host
Carola Ross, Executive Director of SWAA
Les Cohn, Exhibition Curator and Artistic Director
Ms Nolitha Fakude, Representative of Sasol
Michelle Constant, BASA CEO
Members of the panel of Judges
Esteemed supporters and sponsors of the SWAA
Distinguished artists
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and gentlemen
Good evening!

It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to address you this evening when we, once again, meet to view some of the best innovative wax artworks. Every year, since I have been invited to participate in the Sasol Wax Art Award programme, the exhibition has become more sophisticated.  I understand that the intention of this year’s exhibition is to reflect “five very distinctive and challenging, well-developed voices of the South African art landscape”. I believe that it has achieved just that.

I have had an opportunity to view the exhibition. It is awesome. There is a range of diverse designs. In my opinion, the products are of high quality and standard. The task of selecting the winner could not have been an easy one.

The diversity of the participating esteemed artists clearly indicates that the Sasol Wax Art Award has filled a niche gap in the sector. 

The Sasol Wax Art Award was launched in 2005 to recognise and reward professional artists for their contribution to innovation and excellence in the visual arts using the wax in the creation of their work. This recognition has certainly inspired and encouraged many of our established artists judging by the number of proposals that are received every year. There is no other award aimed exclusively at recognising professional artists with years of experience.

The inaugural recipient of the SWAA in 2006 was Jeremy Wafer, a professor in Fine Arts at Wits, who is this year a member of the panel of judges; and last year the recipient of the award was Walter Oltmann, who is also a senior lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts at Wits. (UJ watch out!)

This year the Department of Arts and Culture has put their money where their mouth is. We entered into a partnership with the Sasol Wax Art Award to promote the Jewellery Outreach Initiative.  The Jewellery Outreach Initiative identified skills development and technical excellence in jewellery design as a priority. Opportunities have thus been created for aspirant jewellery designers to explore creative concepts, and develop technical excellence using wax as a medium.
The collaboration between the students of the University of Johannesburg Jewellery Department and Imfundiso Skills Development project is one of the success stories. Students participating in the SWAA/DAC Jewellery Outreach Competition were afforded an opportunity to showcase their jewellery pieces at the 2008 Sanlam SA Fashion Week. I have been informed by Carola and Masana that this was considered one of the best stands by the public and the fashion industry.

On behalf of our Ministry and our Department of Arts and Culture I would like to thank the University of Johannesburg, the Vice Chancellor and University Community for allowing us to use their facilities for training purposes and for accommodating the exhibition and this event.

A mentorship programme with the Durban University of Technology and students from the African Art Centre in Durban was also initiated this year. I understand that this is also doing very well.  These are the partnerships we would like to support. We would like to encourage other tertiary institutions to do the same, working together with the sector to uplift our communities.

Central to any programme that wishes to address sustainable development is the need to reach out to communities and involving them in practical ways and as active participants in their own creativity and development. This community project reinforces, to a great extent, the argument that the process of development should at least create an environment conducive for people, individually and collectively, to develop their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives according to their needs and interests (Sen, 1990:1)

The Ministry and the Department of Arts are privileged and proud to be associated with this initiative and this prestigious Award. We would like to commend Carola Ross and Associates for taking this project to greater heights.

South Africa is blessed with a rich cultural tradition, with talented artistic individuals and communities living across the length and breadth of this country. In many parts of the country, communities have access to natural and material resources, human resources, cultural assets, indigenous knowledge, traditions and customs that can be the key agents for social and economic development. In this case, the designers have tapped deep into their creative talents and resources to design pieces that take inspiration from their roots. We need to invest in people. We need to invest in the things that are important to people, things that make people grow in their chosen professions.

The arts play an important role in the life of communities.  They are important for the expression of the life and culture of communities and the transmission of values and ideas from generation to generation. The arts are a major form of human communication and expression. Individuals and groups use the arts to explore, express and communicate ideas, feelings and experiences. 

Finally, we would like to thank Sasol for their support and the organisers of the Sasol Wax Art Award, Carola Ross and Associates for putting together this beautiful and imaginative exhibition. The work exhibited is not only beautiful but also very creative. To all the designers, we wish you well and hope you will take the skills you have learnt to a higher level. We hope this vehicle becomes useful in your careers.

My dream is that one day we can have our own South African Wax Museum, similar to the famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London. Where we can exhibit wax sculptures representing important personalities in our history – we may want to draw from the President’s National Awards – all those people who have made a contribution to make our country a better place and have made a difference in people’s lives.

I hope all of you present here today will get inspiration from the pieces exhibited. Let us all support South African art and be proudly South African.
Enjoy the evening.

I thank you.