Lebohang Kgange on winning Sasol New Signatures

Congratulations on being announced as the winner of Sasol New Signatures 2017!
The past  few weeks have been quite a whirlwind! We want to find out more about your experience.

When you were waiting for the final winner to be announced - what emotions were you feeling?
I was anxious and nervous from the moment they announced the merit winners. There were just two names left so I knew it could be me!

Winners at major awards like the Oscars often say they can’t remember much about the actual announcement and walking up onto the stage. You looked overwhelmed and you shed some tears. Do you have vivid memories or is it blurred by adrenalin and excitement?
To be honest most of the evening is a blur. I can honestly say I felt overwhelmed and very emotional. There is no way to prepare for a huge surprise like that. It is a shock. But a good shock!

The awards evening hosted over 400 invited dignitaries and members of the public - all of them had their eyes on your work. That must have been quite a thrill?
It was great to have the opportunity to talk with so many interested people.. I remember plenty of conversations about the work. It is always encouraging to dialogue about my process of working - especially with an attentive and enthusiastic audience.

Previous winners Ingrid Bolton, Nelmarie du Preez and Zyma Amien were all in attendance - how does it feel to be part of this esteemed group? And interestingly all women in August the month we celebrate women. Did they share their journeys with you?
I am inspired greatly by Nelmarie du Preez! You could say that I’m a bit of a  fan! I am interested in her work and have been following her development as an artist over the years. I thought Zyma’s solo exhibition was amazing especially as the work was realised in so many different ways. Ingrid shared great stories about her journey as an artist. She is such an advocate for creativity which is really exciting. I  must say I feel honoured to now be part of such highly esteemed company and to continue the legacy of female excellence.

Thursday’s major newspapers all ran stories about the competition and your win. Was it a thrill to see your work featured in print?
The features in the newspapers about the competition, my work and me winning the Sasol award really made me emotional…again. It  is quite a surreal experience - almost like I was looking in from the outside. Actually it is pretty difficult to fully describe. I don’t know if anything prepares you for winning and the aftermath of receiving an award like this, but the conversations and questions from the press about my work were thought-provoking.  There were some interesting comments and queries about my work which have in turn sparked some ideas in me.  It is always interesting … you never know where your next inspiration will come from.

How have your family, friends and colleagues reacted?
My family is really happy because they have contributed so much to this project, my friends and other artists are constantly congratulating me and asking about my future project. This concentrated burst of interest in my work is really positive and I just want to get into my studio to continue my work with renewed energy.

What are your thoughts on the 119 works displayed in the full Sasol New Signatures exhibition 2017. 
The exhibition was really well curated and I found most of the work original.  I would encourage people to  visit the exhibition and indulge their visual senses. It is a great opportunity to see brilliant work in one space and possibly invest in an artist of the future since all work is on sale.

You also got to spend quite a bit of time with the other top 6 finalists. Did you enjoy sharing this experience and what was the general atmosphere amongst the group?
We had a great time together, we discussed our works and the rest of the exhibition. I was particularly impressed by the woodcut work titled Umbango, which means ‘conflict’ in isiZulu by Sthenjwa Hopewell Luthuli’s. Prior to the final announcement being made, I felt comforted in that even if I didn’t win...I would have been a runner up to this amazing artist.

It has only been a few weeks since your win - but have your future plans been adjusted in any way now that you have the prize money to forward your career?
My future plans have definitely been adjusted, I am eager to start with my new project for my solo exhibition which will take place at the Pretoria Art Museum next year. I’m super-excited to get cracking and live up to the standard set by Zyma this year. Those are pretty big shoes to fill!

The  Sasol New Signature  competition is a process - from entering, to feedback sessions, to being selected as a finalist and the whole winning experience - what memories will you carry forever?
One of my fondest memories is dropping off my entry at Sasol Place in Sandton. I remember  standing in line  with all the other hopefuls and just looking at the different artists and artworks. Just trying to absorb the whole experience. I felt pretty excited at that point as a new journey had started but I had no idea of the finishing point.

There could be only one winner! Do you have words of encouragement for the runners up and for artists considering entering in 2018?
This was my third entry for the competition Twice previously I entered with photography work and  I only made it into the top 100 works, the group exhibition and the catalogue.  I entered again this year, with a stop-frame animation. I would encourage the other finalists to continue with their practice and keep refining it.  As Pieter Binsbergen said : “One has to keep knocking on doors”.  Artists considering entering in 2018  should start  planning and working on the piece they hope to enter. Before you know it the deadline has arrived and entrants need to be prepared and ready.  Leaving things to the last minute is never a good strategy.

As Pieter Binsbergen said Sasol New Signatures is a massive machine - do you have any comments for the Sponsors, organisers, guests and media?
The Sasol New Signatures team is super efficient and supportive as is the team at the Pretoria Art Museum. I struggled with my entry but was guided through it. As one of the longest running art competitions, I am grateful for the commitment they have demonstrated to the careers of us young artists by investing their expertise and resources . Plus the Sasol sponsorship money is invaluable in assisting artists further their careers.