Nigerian sculptor Samuel Nnorom wins the Stephan Welz Cassirer fine art award

The artist who works in textile is the first non South African to walk away with this prestigious prize for emerging artists not signed to a gallery.

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor 

Colourful sculptural pieces, including that of an astronaut won Nigerian artist the Stephan Welz Cassirer Award  for emerging artists last night  at a ceremony  that was initially scheduled to take place physically but was cancelled on the 11th hour due to the Covid-19 situation in the country. Instead the ceremony  took place virtually through Zoom

One of the pieces that must have won the hearts, minds and eyes of the judges to award this year’s prize to Samuel Nnorom from Nigeria who works in textile to create these colourful sculptural pieces must be a the astronaut piece.

Nnorom who has the distinction of being the first winner of this prestigious award who is a non South Africa since the award was incepted 10 years ago, explained that the sculpture represents the idea of Africans taking their pride of place among the development nations when it comes to technological advancement.

“For me this is to say that Africa can also take its place among the developed world when it comes to advancement in knowledge and technology,” a the excited artists said as he accepted the award virtually.

Susie Goodman, an executive director at Strauss &Co, who in partnership with the Bag Factory Artist Studios are the organisers of this award remarked. “It is important to hear a voice and perspective of someone from the other part of the continent other than from South Africa talking about their art. And, so congratulations to Samuel and the other three finalists. Maybe when the situation of Covid-19, allows it we will get all four of you to come over to Johannesburg and collaborate with each other ,” she said.

Candice Allison the director of Bag Factory Artists Studios explained that this is the first time the award has accepted applications from beyond the borders of South Africa in its 11th year.

“Bag Factory Artists Studios, in partnership with Strauss & Co Fine Art Auctioneers, is thrilled to announce the winner of the 2021 Cassirer Welz Award: Congratulations Samuel Nnorom. Samuel Nnorom is a multi-talented artist who seeks to explore several materials. He holds a BAed (sculpture major) from the University of Jos and currently concluding an MFA in sculpture from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Samuel was the winner of the national art competition organised by the National Gallery of Art in 2010 and 2012. He also won prizes in the 2016, 2017 and 2019 editions of the Life in My City Art Festival. He was first prize recipient (leatherwork category) of the Icreate Africa 2019. Samuel has received invitations to important workshops and group exhibitions, including the international art workshop by IICD at the United States Embassy, Abuja (2019), Young Contemporary 2021, published in an international magazine, UK (zine, issue 11, artist responding to issues) 2021 and recipient of 2022 ROSL and Art House Residency London, and several others, “statement released by the organisers cites.

Nnorom belongs  to the New Nsukka School of Art and is currently exploring Ankara fabric to explore ideas surrounding bubbles while interrogating personal experiences that relate to sociopolitical issues in Africa.

The selection jury, comprised of Bag Factory programmes manager Gcotyelwa Mashiqa, communications manager Zanele Kumalo, Strauss executive director Susie Goodman and senior art specialist Wilhelm van Rensburg, who unanimously agreed that Samuel’s multi-media sculptures are exceptional and that he will benefit hugely from the award for substantial creative and professional growth. 

The  other three finalists are Ntahbising Kekana, Xanthe Jackson and Mpumelelo Buthelezi. 

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