Jackie Karuti bags the 2020 Henrike Grohs Art Award

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Jackie Karuti being interviewed about her 2019 exhibition, 'Labyrinth'. (YouTube)
Jackie Karuti being interviewed about her 2019 exhibition, 'Labyrinth'. (YouTube)
  • The mixed media artist follows the award’s inaugural winner, Em’kal Eyongakpa from Cameroon.
  • Sitting in second and third place on the shortlist are Sabelo Mlangeni and Akwasi Bediako Afrane.
  • In addition to funding the publication of her work, the award comes with a  €20 000 cash prize


Based in Nairobi, Kenya the new media artist is the second recipient of the award. She follows Cameroon’s Em’kal Eyongakpa. Karuti’s work explores themes of death, sexuality, identity, knowledge and urban culture through video, drawing and interactive performances. 

Conceived by the Goethe-Institut and Grohs family, the Henrike Grohs Art Award is a biennial art prize created in memory of the former head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs. Each iteration of the awards' ceremony is celebrated at a different biennale or major art event on the continent. In 2020 it was to exist alongside Dak’art 2020. 

Every year, three practitioners sit on the jury that decides the winner. Sitting on the 2020 jury were curators Gabi Ngcobo (South Africa) Sarah Rifky (Egypt) and Paula Nascimento (Angola).

This award is intended to allow her to not only continue making experimental work but also to encourage her to delve into more complex enquiries. To make this possible Karuti will be awarded  €10 000 for the publication of her work, over and above a €20 000 cash prize. Commenting on Karuti’s win, the jury said in addition to doing the important work of investigating technologies and ways of seeing, the artist’s work has a “unique poetic dimension”. 

Before the announcement, Karuti (Kenya) was shortlisted alongside Sabelo Mlangeni (South Africa) and Akwasi Bediako Afrane (Ghana). The runners up will each receive a cash prize of €5 000.

Representing the Grohs family, Florian Grohs said: 
The three winning artists underline the importance of art to nurture a multicultural society in Africa. Especially now, we are happy that the Award supports upcoming African artists when the Corona pandemic makes it even more difficult for artists to perform and to gain a living.

As a result of the Covid 19 restrictions, the 2020 ceremony for the Henrike Grohs Art Award, which was set to be held in Dakar, has been cancelled. Instead the funds meant for the ceremony will be distributed to the top 17 artists who were shortlisted for the prize. 

Karuti’s work can be seen here: thirdroomstudios.com


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