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Despite Covid woes worldwide, Africa’s Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI) : the pan-African art prize stays strong

Sana Chamekh, Mad, Mad Love, 2020. Crayon et transfert sur papier, 42 x 29.7 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

By PETRA MASON, February 2022

While my personal interest in art competitions is the ‘pop’ of champagne at the after parties, many offer prizes that could make an enormous difference to the life of the winner. 

So what is it about art competitions? Most nobly aim at the pursuit of excellence, or to promote and encourage on a National level, but there is only one on the continent of Africa that is genuinely pan-African, and that’s the Harare based Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI) an initiative dedicated to supporting emerging contemporary painters and painting.  

While EPI offers an opportunity to snap up new talent at emerging artist prices, it is one of the few competitions that’s on the radar of some heavyweight collectors.The jurors are all artists, making it less a corporate contest and more nurturing as peers and mentors share the same practice.  

Ravelle Pillay, Cake, 2021. Oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

Although EPI was kickstarted by some early sponsors, it swiftly became financially independent through art sales via the powerful Strauss & Co dedicated auction. 

This year, EPI’s third, all the painters' paintings will be showcased simultaneously on the African Art Galleries Association (AAGA), Emerging Painting Invitational and Strauss & Co platforms. 

A programme of highly anticipated studio visits, classes and panel discussions kicks off online on February 9th, sales open online on February 14th at Strauss & Co www.straussart.co.za and culminates in a Strauss & Co in-person VIP evening event in Cape Town on the 16th to announce the three cash prize winners. The EPI dedicated online auction ends February 21st and showcases three of each of the 16 strong EPI finalists hail from 8 African countries, namely, Rwanda, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Algeria, Sudan, Kenya, Angola and South Africa. 

Khotso Motsoeneng, Out of the Blue, 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 71 x 61 cm. Courtesy of the artist.

To be eligible for EPI, artists must be living and working on the continent, must be under 30 years old and have painting as their primary discipline. 

First Floor Gallery (Harare, Zimbabwe) Director and co-founder of AAGA and EPI, Valerie Kabov elaborates on the motivation behind EPI: 

While contemporary African art has been on the rise internationally, developing skills and engaging the international art world is still a challenge for many young painters on the continent. EPI intends to help motivate, support and develop the practices and careers of young African visual artists. Supporting emerging painters is not just enormously significant culturally, it is to ensure the economic sustainability of local art sectors. EPI was developed with a holistic vision for art on the continent.’

The finalists paintings, in-depth profiles and event programme will be on view on the Emerging Painting Invitational website www.emergingpaintinginvitational.com. WM


Petra Mason

Cultural historian and vintage photography book author published by Rizzoli New York. Founder Obscure Studio and ArtHit. Whitehot arts and culture contributor since 2016.

Photography by (c) Thekiso Mokhele / Obscure Studio


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