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Silver Winners of National Arts Festival/BASA Arts Journalism Awards announced

Published on 13 June 2013

The finalists in the inaugural National Arts Festival/Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Arts Journalism Awards have been announced. Each finalist is a “Silver Award” winner. Gold Award winners, together with the overall “Arts Journalist of the Year”, will be announced in Grahamstown on 30 June 2013.

“These awards are a celebration of the excellence and passion demonstrated by our country’s arts journalists,” National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “They are a vital part of the industry, offering criticism, context and insight into the work our artists do. These finalists represent the best of the best, and all scored extremely highly in the judging process,” he continued.

Silver winners were those who scored over 80% from the judges in the three categories: Reviews (9 winners), Features (9 winners) and Opinion (6 winners). After assessing all the entries, the organisers decided to add a fourth category for Photography, in which 5 Silver winners were named.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of our committed judges,” said convener of the judging panel Chris Thurman. “Their careful attention to each of the entries and their combined evaluation ensured a fair and thorough process.”

Apart from the Features, Reviews and Opinion category winners, the judges also made a number of commendatory Silver Awards.

“We felt that we should acknowledge some of the media platforms whose collective entries demonstrated that they have created an environment in which arts journalism can thrive,” Thurman, said. “By giving their journalists the space to explore the arts, they are contributing to a stronger industry.”

Special judges’ commendations were, therefore, given to the Mail & Guardian Online, Mahala, and Carte Blanche. An individual commendation, for a sustained contribution to the arts through journalism, was given to jazz writer Don Albert.

Gold Award winners will receive cash prizes as well as a prize from the National Arts Festival’s new coffee sponsor, Nespresso. The overall Arts Journalist of the Year will be given the opportunity to travel to report on an international arts event, choosing between the Amsterdam Fringe, Adelaide Fringe and Venice Biennale.

“The importance of arts journalism cannot be overstated,” BASA CEO Michelle Constant said. “Without the kind of interrogation and exposure journalists provide, our artists would be working in a vacuum. While a good journalist is not simply a publicity machine for the arts, their role in provoking intelligent debate and raising awareness of the arts is crucial. We hope that, by supporting these awards, we are helping to raise the standard of arts journalism, and to encourage young journalists to consider reporting and commenting on the arts as a career.”

The awards are 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 [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