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Inaugural Arts Journalism Award Gold Awards announced

Published on 1 July 2013

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The Gold Award winners of the inaugural National Arts Festival/BASA Arts Journalism Awards were announced at a function at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown yesterday.

The 2013 National Arts Festival Arts Journalist of the Year is Charl Blignaut. Blignaut was the standout arts journalist in 2012, not simply because his writing informed and responded to national debates but because of the sheer scope and vigour of his output. Whether writing about theatre, dance, visual arts, television or heritage, he is eloquent, astute, honest and – not least of all – witty. He receives a R5000 cash prize; and the opportunity to travel to report on an international arts event, choosing between the Amsterdam Fringe, Adelaide Fringe and Venice Biennale.

The judges wanted to give special recognition to one journalist whose extended coverage of the battle over Durant Sihle’s artistic legacy was superb. These carefully-researched articles demonstrate that arts journalism is not a marginal ‘beat’ and that reporting on the arts also means reporting on, for example, social and legal issues. A Special Gold for Investigative Journalism is awarded to Phillip De Wet.

The Gold winner in the Features section is Percy Mabandu. The judges were impressed by the variety of the subject matter taken on by this journalist, who does not shy away from controversial topics, but treats them in an even-handed fashion. His features are marked (as is his arts writing more broadly) by a strong but amiable writing persona.

The Gold winner in the Reviews category is Anna Stielau. Stielau emerged as a consistently excellent reviewer in what was a tightly contested category, dominated by strong visual arts journalism. In her arts writing she takes care to provide the necessary context or background to the artist she is assessing while paying careful, critical attention to the work at hand.

The Gold Winner in the Opinion category is Brooks Spector. Spector is a veteran arts writer who uses the long-form advantages of his platform to offer nuanced, provocative insights into the arts and culture sector. His writing is informed by a remarkable knowledge of the historical, political and aesthetic forces that shape the sector.

An individual commendation, for a significant and sustained contribution to the arts through journalism, was given to jazz writer Don Albert.

Gold Award winners for Features, Reviews and Opinion receive a cash prize of R5 000 each, and a Nespresso Coffee Machine.

Special judges’ commendations were also given to the Mail & Guardian Online, Mahala, and Carte Blanche; whose collective entries showed that these platforms have created an environment in which arts journalism can thrive.


The awards were being presented for the first time in 2013 (entries had to be published or broadcast in the 2012 calendar year to qualify). In identifying excellence, expertise and creativity, it is hoped they will promote the practice of arts and cultural journalism, strengthen its national profile and celebrate its importance, range, diversity, fluidity and vitality.

The full list of Silver Award winners is:


Tanja Bencun

Charl Blignaut

Lauren Clifford-Holmes

Phillip De Wet

Charles Leonard

Percy Mabandu

Nadia Neophytou

Laurice Taitz-Buntman

Nigel Vermaas


Diane Awerbuck

Tammy Ballantyne

Matthew Blackman

Charl Blignaut

Anthea Buys

Mary Corrigall

Sean O’Toole

Robyn Sassen

Anna Stielau


Bruce Dennill

Lloyd Gedye

Steve Kretzmann

Charles Leonard

Carla Lever

Brooks Spector

PHOTOGRAPHY [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][This was not originally announced as an award category in 2013. No Gold Award will be made until the 2014 competition.]

Herman Verwey

James Oatway

Jesse Kramer

Sizwe Ndingane

Suzy Bernstein


For supporting the arts by creating a platform for creative reporting on the sector: Mail & Guardian Online, Mahala and Carte Blanche.

For his practice as an arts journalist of a consistently high standard over a long period: Don Albert

About Business and Arts South Africa NPC: Business and Arts South Africa NPC 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 NPC encourages mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts. Business and Arts South Africa NPC 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 Non Profit Company, Business and Arts South Africa NPC is accountable to both government and its business members.

About the National Arts Festival: The National Arts Festival, now in its 39th year, has proved its sustainability and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in Southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.