Three Artists on Henrike Grohs Award Shortlist

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Yinka Olatunbosun

The organisers of Henrike Grohs Art Award, a biennial prize dedicated to artists who live and work in Africa and are practicing in the field of visual arts have announced three artists on the shortlist for the award. Em’kal Eyongakpa (Cameroon), Georgina Maxim (Zimbabwe) and Makouvia Kokou Ferdinand (Togo) were shortlisted for the maiden edition of the award which was conceived by the Goethe-Institut and the Grohs family. The winner will be announced on March 6 and awarded on March 13 in Abidjan.

The award recognises the lifetime achievements of the former Head of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan, Henrike Grohs, who was killed on 13 March 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire alongside 17 other people. She studied ethnology. She co-founded the project ‘Next – Intercultural Projects’ at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. Between 2002 and 2009, she worked as Project Manager in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s Education programme. In 2009, she was appointed Advisor on Culture and Development at the Goethe-Institut in South Africa. Grohs was 51 at the time of her passing.

In honour of Grohs, the shortlisted artists are drawn from different artistic expressions. For instance, Eyongakpa is an intermedia artist who approaches the experienced, the unknown, as well as collective histories through a ritual use of repetition and transformation. His recent ideas draw from indigenous knowledge systems and aesthetics, ethnobotany, applied mycology as well as technology.

Meanwhile, Maxim’s work combines weaving, stitch work and the utilisation of found textiles creating objects that evade definition. The dresses are deconstructed, and at times reconstructed to find new ways of giving tribute to and reflection upon the person that owned the original garment.

As for Ferdinand’s sculptural and performance work, he plays with borders and mixes memories, materials and cultural references. Building on traditional Mina culture, his gaze on contemporary society is unique, sometimes ironic and often moving.

In a statement by the jury members of the awards, the prize is described as one that “aims at strengthening artists and encouraging them in their quest for a world of togetherness and dialogue.” The jury members are Koyo Kouoh (Artistic Director, RAW Material Company, Dakar), Laurence Bonvin, an artist and representative of the Grohs family in Berlin; Raphael Chikukwa who is the Chief Curator, National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Harare and Simon Njami, another curator based in Paris.