TUT artists add their names to premier art competition

By Gerrit Bester

26 August 2022

Being one of the 106 finalists in this year's Sasol New Signatures Art Competition is no small accomplishment, considering the record number of 1 065 entries. Fine and Studio Arts lecturer, Mellaney Roberts, and student, Kutlwano Monyai, are among this select group of artists with their thought-provoking entries, titled What resides within, and Kgetsana ya segopotso (Bag of remembrance).

Mellaney Roberts posing with her artwork, titled What resides within.

“It’s exciting to be considered for the Sasol New Signatures as it is a sign that you are taken seriously as an artist,” said Mellaney at the opening and awards ceremony at the Pretoria Art Museum on 24 August.

Speaking about her textured ceramic artwork, What resides within, she said it signifies “being somewhere in between and not represented.” 

“As a Coloured woman, in the collective memory of my story, I always felt like an invisible individual trapped between Black and White classifications. Therein lies an untold story of being somewhere between and not represented, creating the feeling of ‘not-belonging.’ Through constructing narratives of lived experience, hybrid communities can challenge dominant stereotypes and subvert discourses of otherness and difference,” she said.

“My body of work focuses on presenting ceramic sculptures depicting the fluid shift of borders. I use borders as a metaphor for the way that our identity transforms as we experience various spaces. My ceramic sculptural forms are often cut, pierced, or demarcated, showing the divisions in cultural differences. The divisions emphasise how the parameters of identity are often blurred and how an object’s placement in space can reference things other than itself, acting as a memory trigger. My intuitive response to clay enlists the rich and multileveled reference that ceramics has as a medium, evoking the permanence and impermanence associated with time,” she added.

Kutlwano, who is enrolled for a postgraduate diploma in Fine and Applied Arts, said that being a finalist is a testament to her moving in the right direction. “It’s recognition for the work that I’m doing.”

Explaining her artwork, she said: “Kgetsana ya segopotso (Bag of remembrance) is a reminder to me, a reference to my maternal lineage and an archive of my home experiences. Made by the crocheted method using plastic garbage bags and hung on a steel hanger, it has taken the shape of the bag of pegs from my home. It is re-imagined in an enormous state and reminds me of how many objects it carries at home, also ‘kgetsana ya go tlhapa’ (a net exfoliating body scrubber),” she said.

Kgetsana ya segopotso (Bag of remembrance) is the title of Kutlwano Monyai’s artwork.

“The work embodies a chemistry between ‘kgetsana’ that carries and ‘kgetsana’ that cleans both used in a domestic space. This speaks to the love language and ritual act from home that can be easily overlooked. Making and caring for the space and the body as an aesthetic and selfcare gesture has been subtly and visually communicated through my maternal generations,” she added.

In congratulating Mellaney and Kutlwano, Dr Pfunzo Sidogi, Head of the Department of Fine and Studio Arts and National Chairperson of Sasol New Signatures, said: “I’m extremely proud of Mellaney Roberts and Kutlwano Monyai for being selected as finalists for this year’s Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. The judges at both the regional and final judging rounds gave positive remarks and compliments about their artworks. I wish them well in their respective journeys as artists.”

The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition exhibition, featuring the work of the 2022 winners and finalists, take place at the Pretoria Art Museum until 2 October 2022. All the finalists are included in the highly respected competition catalogue. The full exhibition is also available to view virtually on the website. 

The competition, presented by the Association of Arts Pretoria, is one of South Africa’s oldest and most respected.

For more information: www.sasolsignatures.co.za

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