The most unusual of the arts awards are not for the artists and their productions, but rather for the sponsors of the artists and their creations. I am talking about the Annual Business Day BASA Awards. These awards are supported by Anglo American.
The event at which these awards are presented is one of Johannesburg’s most prestigious happenings on the arts calendar, always taking place at some appropriate venue. This year it was the new Wits Arts Museum. Michelle Constant, CEO of BASA, pointed out that she estimated that about two thirds of the guests had not yet been to been to WAM – an accurate observation in my case, although I have been meaning to go.
The guest list is made up mainly of representatives from the nominated sponsors and representatives of the projects being sponsored, together with judges and BASA board members and a small sprinkling of members of the business and arts media.
The two special awards, Art Champion, and the Chairman’s Premier Award, went to Mary Slack and Artist Proof Studio (APS) respectively. It is as patron of Mzansi Productions (one of the ballet companies now merged as SA Mzansi Ballet) that I have most recently observed Mary Slack. This is a particularly fitting award as she was the founding Chairperson of BASA. She is currently associated with the Brenthurst Library and the Brenthurst Press, publishers of some of South Africa’s most sought after Afrikaner works. It was the exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) which featured the 21st anniversary of APS earlier this year which is my newest memory of this project which trains many aspiring artists in printmaking and other artistic endeavours each year. It was founded by Kim Berman and the late Nhlanhla Xaba who tragically died in a fire which destroyed the APS in 2003.
The award trophies are always exquisitely crafted and absolutely unique. This year each winner received a beautifully beaded Ndebele Itelefoni dancing staff, sculpted by Petrus Mahlangu to represent power lines and beaded by Sophy Mahlangu and her arts group Nomhlekhabo Craft Africa. They are works of art worthy of display in any executive suite of offices.
The judges were Dr Andrew Human, Kojo Baffoe, Mary Corrigall, Nicky du Plessis, Giovanni Mariano, Lisebo Mokhesi and Jay Pather. All have impeccable credentials.
I suppose I should say something about the nominees. One has, of course, one’s favourites. Mine included Anglo American for sponsoring the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Standard Bank for sponsoring Water, the [delicate] thread of life, Dance Directory for sponsoring the South African Ballet Theatre, Alusani Skills and Training for sponsoring the Keiskamma Music Academy, ABI for sponsoring the Festival of Fame and Alecia Nkadimeng for mentoring The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative. Yet every initiative is valuable and worthy. They all contribute to the arts in ways that others can’t. The partnerships between businesses and the arts are more than simply about money – they are part of the rich culture of the people of this country with each side benefitting as much as the other.
Other sponsors were Citadel Investment Services (Pty) Ltd, Artinsure Underwriting Managers and Hollard Insurance Company Limited, Santam, Distell, NCP Alcohols, KWV South Africa, Huyndai Automotive South Africa, Media 24 Weeklies, Peermont Global, Old Mutual, De Beers, Electronic Media Network M-Net, The Daily News, Interactive Africa, Intdev Internet Technologies, Versfeld and Associates, Magnetic Storm, Rainbow Farms, TBWA/Hunt Lascaris, Paul Bothner (Pty) Ltd, Kajsa Claude, Veronica King, Niall Kramer.
Ultimately one undestands that the real winners are the arts and those that get to experience them as audiences and viewers, but they weren’t at the awards. So to the winners (the official list is on the BASA website with more details than are given here):
Arts and Environment – supported by Nedbank went to a site specific art project at the Beacon Island Resort.
First Time Sponsor went to Hyundai Automotive South Africa for the MK Awards.
Innovation went to AngloGold Ashanti Limited for Streets of Gold – The Musical.
International Sponsorship went to Nando’s Chickenland Ltd for their South African art collection displayed in their UK restaurants. This forms the largest collection of South African art outside Africa.
Sponsorship in Kind went to Magnetic Storm for Showtime Theatre Awards and Musical
Media Sponsorship Award went to Izwi Lomzansi 98.0 FM for Love is in the Air
Mentor of the Year – supported by Etana went to Alecia Nkadimeng for her work with The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
Single Strategic Project went to Interactive Africa for Acre Road – Your Street
Small Business went to Pinpoint one for Artist Proof Studio
Youth Development went to Santam Limited for Santam’s Child Art Programme
Increasing Access to the Arts went to Izwi Lomzansi 98.0 FM for Love in the Air
Sustainable Partnership went to Sasol for the New Signature Art Competition
Several people commented on the brevity of the awards ceremony which was kept to under an hour. Drinks and snacks were available from six. The function began at seven. Nothing was drawn out. No thank you speeches were made. There was plenty of time for socialising, networking and enjoying the delicious catering the hospitality team had put together. It was the stragglers who were leaving by nine, with those who didn’t stay having left an hour earlier. Another win for the guests!
In case anyone was wondering Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) is an internationally recognised South African development agency which incorporates the arts into, and contributes to, corporates’ commercial success. With a suite of integrated programmes, Business and Arts South Africa encourages mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts. Business and Arts South Africa was founded in 1997 as a joint initiative of government and the business sector, to secure the future development of the arts industry in South Africa, through increased corporate sector involvement. Established as a Section 21 company, Business and Arts South Africa is accountable to both government and its business members.
The BASA Awards ceremony was held on 28 August 2012 at the Wits Art Museum.