Tswelopele by Bonolo Kavula earns the The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize

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Made of a red shweshwe dress, reminiscent of a family heirloom, the deconstruction and reconstruction of the fabric allows a new design to emerge from the mass of dots. (The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize)
Made of a red shweshwe dress, reminiscent of a family heirloom, the deconstruction and reconstruction of the fabric allows a new design to emerge from the mass of dots. (The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize)
  • The artist’s work is focused on abstraction, repetition and design, to create layered and multidimensional installations. 
  • Represented by SMAC Gallery, Kavula is the first ever winner of the for contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora.
  • They were selected from a shortlist of 30 artists hailing from 18 countries. 


Norval Foundation and The Sovereign Art Foundation (SAF) declared Bonolo Kavula as the winner of The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize for their work Tswelopele. The artist’s work is focused on abstraction, repetition and design, to create layered and multidimensional installations. Made of a red shweshwe dress, reminiscent of a family heirloom, the deconstruction and reconstruction of the fabric allows a new design to emerge from the mass of dots, leaving space for the viewer to interpret the work as they choose. 

Kavula, represented by SMAC Gallery in Cape Town, is the first ever winner of this annual Prize for contemporary artists from Africa and its diaspora. They were selected from a shortlist of 30 artists hailing from 18 countries of which South Africa has the strongest representation, followed by Zimbabwe, Angola, Morocco, and Nigeria.

In addition to the title and cash award of R500 000, Kavula will be offered the opportunity to hold a solo exhibition at Norval Foundation, in which the winning work will feature. In addition, aer capturing the attention of the public who placed votes at the exhibition and online, René Tavares, of This Is Not A White Cube, Luanda and Lisbon, and Galeire Alex Serra, Cologne is awarded the Public Vote Prize and R25,000 for their piece 'Sóia dona um, 2021, retratos pra Inglês ver – séries.' A work in which the plantations in São Tomé and the period aer the abolition of slavery remind us of a historical past that is important to recover and reckon with.

A board of 53 independent arts professionals, comprising curators and academics who work closely with artists in their respective regions, nominated 158 artists for the Prize.The 30 finalists were shortlisted by a Judging Panel of five world-class art specialists, namely: writer, curator, and museum director David Ellio; Exhibitions Director, Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Janine Gaëlle Dieudji; Curator, Norval Foundation, Khanya Mashabela; exhibition curator and contemporary art consultant, Marie-AnnYemsi; and Chief Executive and Director, Design Museum, London,Tim Marlow.

The awards were given at a private event in the presence of the Judging Panel at the Finalists Exhibition at Norval Foundation, Cape Town on 15 February 2022. The public are invited to view the shortlisted artworks at the exhibition which is open 9am-5pm (daily except Tuesdays) until 28 February 2022 inclusive.

The Prize aims to raise significant funds for the shortlisted artists and for Norval Foundation’s Educational Programme as proceeds from the sale will be split equally between the Foundation and the artists.

Anna Lejerskar, President of the Learn for Life Foundation, the non-profit arm of EON Reality, commented on the partnership:

“Creativity is viewed as the driving force behind innovation, as a fuel to inspire and enrich. For EON Reality, the parallels between art and technology are evident, both provide the means to learn about ourselves and the world in new and different ways, and an invitation to rethink and reinvent.

The EON Reality, through its not-for-profit arm Learn for Life Foundation is proud to be sponsoring The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize in a cause that is closely aligned with the organization’s commitment to education, arts and the community.

The cooperation between Learn for Life Foundation and the Norval Sovereign African Art Prize marks our shared vision to harness the power of creativity and empower the dreams of the generations to come.”

Hannah O’Leary, Head of Modern & Contemporary African Art, Sotheby’s commented: 

“The Norval Sovereign African Art Prize not only provides a wonderful opportunity for the artists involved, but it also brings to the fore the vibrant, boundary-pushing artistic communities across Africa and the diaspora for the benefit of an audience worldwide. Just off the back of the exhibition in Cape Town, it is with great excitement that we are presenting the shortlisted works in an auction at Sotheby’s.”

All shortlisted works, except for The Grand Prize Winner, are available to acquire via an auction hosted by Sotheby’s, open for bidding from 17h00 GMT yesterday (15 February 2022) until 22 February 2022. Please go to Sotheby’s auction pagefor further information and to view the works. Registration is required to place a bid.

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