Germany awaits gifted TUT artist

14 October 2020

The opportunity of a lifetime awaits Lerato Motaung, a Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Fine & Studio Arts alumnus, after he has won the 2020 Emergence Art Prize. The prize, which aims to propel the careers of new, emerging talent from South Africa, includes a residency in Germany  and a cash prize of R80 000.

Lerato Motaung, a Fine & Studio Arts alumnus, has won the  2020 Emergence Art Prize.

“I am thrilled and believe this is a stepping stone. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me since I decided to be an artist. I’m sure more will come of this,” says the gifted artist.

In addition to a two-month residency (June/July 2021) at the Quartier am Hafen Studio House on the banks of Cologne, Germany, and the attractive cash prize, Lerato will also get the opportunity to showcase his work at an exhibition at THK Gallery in Cape Town.

“I have never been to Germany. Like most artists, I have always dreamt of having a global and larger audience. I just did not know how and when it would happen.”

Lerato’s work takes a critical view of patriarchal pedagogy. “Having to intermix between different cultures in different spaces, I got exposed to various ideas of what really makes a man, so I try to investigate such ideologies and the impact they have.”

The work that secured him the Emergence Art Prize is titled Day’s eye. “In the work, my focus is on the transition of a boy child into a man. I used daisy flowers as a metaphor for innocence and purity and was inspired by the story of Hesiodic Cyclopes. I took the qualities of both daisies and the Cyclopes and linked them with the qualities of a boy child and a man. To be a man means to divorce innocence and purity and start adopting strength. It means being emotionless and it drives one to sadness and emotional isolation.”

Lerato was born in Katlehong (1991), then moved to Rustenburg to live with his paternal grandmother in a village, called Lekgalong. 

“I used to enjoy drawing as a kid and competed with friends who also liked drawing. I think that was the spark, even though I was not aware of it as I was doing it for fun. When I was 16, I moved back to Katlehong to live with my mom, who stayed near the Katlehong Art Centre. One morning, I decided to go there and saw people doing amazing art, using different materials. It was there that I learned that art can actually be a career, and I decided that I want to be an artist too.”

Lerato has fond memories of the Arts Campus and recalls spending precious time with and learning from staff members, including Marion Gebhardt, Dr Anne Scheffer, and Justice Mokoena. “They played a very significant role in my life.”

His role models in the art fraternity are artists, Blessing Ngobeni and Nicholas Hlobo, who, he says, produce outstanding works and has given him great advice.

The winner of the Emergence Art Prize was selected by a panel of judges, including Ashraf Jamal, Azu Nwagbogu, Carolynne Waterhouse, and Bettina Nampé, from 184 entries, featuring talented artists across different mediums and disciplines.

To view more of Lerato’s work, follow him on Instagram: 

The Emergence Art Prize is sponsored by artist, Jake Michael Singer, THK Gallery, and supported by RMB.

Lerato’s winning work, titled Day’s eye.
PHOTOS: Thato Mabena.

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