/ Sasol New Signatures Art Competition

Meet Sasol New Signatures chairperson - Pfunzo Sidogi

Back in 2019, Pfunzo Sidogi was appointed the new National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures at the Winners’ Announcement event hosted at the Pretoria Art Museum. With the competition having been cancelled in 2020, he was unable to take over the reins until now.  We are delighted to officially welcome him on board and look forward to an exciting and challenging journey as Sasol New Signatures 2021 gets underway.
In an interview with Sidogi, we asked him about the importance of art competitions such as Sasol New Signatures, building the careers of young artists and his expectations for 2021… 
Why do you think that competitions like SNS are important in building the creative economy/ developing and identifying local talent?
Art competitions like the Sasol New Signatures are critical enablers for not only incentivising emerging artists, but also for giving these artists access to the mainstream art market. Based on past experiences, we have seen how artists who participate in this competition go on to exhibit and promote their artworks at other prominent industry showcases like local, and at times international, art fairs and mega-exhibitions/biennales.
How important is sponsorship of the visual arts?  Sponsorship of the visual arts is sadly rare, and more worrisome, on the decline. I am therefore extremely excited about the resumption of the Sasol New Signatures in 2021. The commitment shown by Sasol in continuing to sponsor this important art competition is praiseworthy. Sasol, like many individuals and businesses in South Africa, went through challenging storms due to Covid-19. It is therefore a testament to the company’s own resilience and ability to innovate that the competition is going ahead in 2021. We adopted the notion of innovation for this year’s competition to show how even under the most difficult situations, people continue to create and innovate for a better world, which is a core value for Sasol.
Having had a break for a year – what impact do you think this will have on the competition – more entries/ less awareness/ diversity of ages/participants?  The one year hiatus of the competition was unfortunate but sadly unavoidable. Its absence underscored the value of the competition as a platform and space for emerging artists to advance their creativity. So, I expect that there will be a positive turnout in terms of entries. I also expect that the quality of work submitted will be of an extremely high standard.

The art of innovation is the theme for 2021 – what does innovation mean to you and how important is this to the visual arts? Innovation is at the heart of what artists do. Through their art, artists create new possibilities and reshape the world as we know it. The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted the significance of innovation, not just in the medical and scientific domain, but in all spheres of life, including the arts.
What are you hoping this theme is going to evoke in the entrants/artists submitting work?
Firstly, I must stress that the use of the word ‘innovation’ within the communication and marketing campaign of the competition is NOT a call for artists to make artworks about or related to innovation. The Sasol New Signatures has embraced the notion of innovation as a celebration of the amazing creative feats artists achieve, especially under moments of great duress, such as we have experienced recently. Therefore, we are hoping to see artworks that will continue to inspire, heal, and transform our society
What role do you think the pandemic is going to play in the themes portrayed this year and what type of work/creativity are you hoping to see in 2021?
Obviously, we expect that artists will produce artworks that respond to the unprecedented times we are living through. However, one can never predict what kind of self-expression and creativity will emerge from the artists. I expect to be amazed and challenged by the diverse artistic harvest that will emerge from around the country.
What advise do you want to give to entrants wanting to submit work? 
advise all entrants to please observe and adhere to the entry specifications, which are not at all restrictive, but are of course necessary for practical reasons. It is always sad when an artwork has to be disqualified from the judging process due to non-compliance to the technical specifications. And more significantly, before submitting your artwork, ask yourself – objectively and frankly – if you would be prepared to buy that artwork if it were created by someone else.
Any words of encouragement to everyone involved? 
Due to the generous sponsorship from Sasol and logistical support from Stuttaford Van Lines, it literally does not cost anything to enter this competition. Also, the team from Sasol and the Association of Arts Pretoria responsible for organising the competition have the best interests of the artists at heart, so everyone who is eligible should definitely enter the competition.
How do you think emerging artists can gauge their success in the industry to keep themselves motivated? 
There is honestly no prescription for self-motivation because individuals are wired so differently. But it is important for artists to immerse themselves within the industry if they want to ripe tangible and sustainable rewards from it.
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