IN: Competition advice

Meet the judges: Daniel van der Merwe

The PPC Imaginarium Awards is the brainchild of respected architect and academic Daniel van der Merwe. We chatted to him about the awards and his thoughts on the furture of art and design in South Africa.

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Tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a professional architect. I was a lecturer at UJ for many years and now I am part of the PPC Innovation team.

Can you tell us more about your involvement in the PPC Imaginarium Awards?

I initiated the awards to allow PPC to play a leadership role in promoting and supporting emerging artists and designers in South Africa. Since its inception, one could say that I’ve been the ‘conductor’ of the initiative. It is something which I feel very passionate about as I believe that our creatives have an important contribution to make towards growing our economy and providing solutions to create a better life for all. In South Africa, artists and designers are usually under-resourced and many struggle to become recognised professionals. The PPC Imaginarium Awards has an important role to play towards alleviating this, and also to stimulate experimentation and expression in a versatile and cheap medium such as cement. 

What key aspects do you look for when judging contestants’ work?

To me, a submission should be relevant and provide commentary about key issues facing us and in certain cases offer a solution. Originality, experimentation, finesse in the execution of a work and of course beauty, which should be celebrated! 

What are your thoughts on art and design in South Africa and Africa?

As a country and a continent, we certainly provide a lot of inspiration to the rest of the world who follow us for fresh and new ideas. I think Africa will grow to become the continent of the future. Having said that, I find it very sad that our governments and the private sectors don’t prioritise the value propositions which art and design have to offer and as a result creatives don’t receive adequate support. It is an interesting fact that countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, etc., which have valued creatives, have also grown into economic giants. Without maximising design innovation, our economies will never reach its full potential.  

What advice would you give young and up-and-coming designers and artists?

You are our future and you have an important role to play in the world as innovators for and commentators to society. This role will become ever increasingly urgent and necessary. It is a difficult career you have chosen, but at the same time you are very privileged to be able to contribute in real ways. Be patient and nurture your own creativity which is the source of all.  

What has been the highlight of your career?

To me, it has truly never been about the self, but instead, what legacies I can contribute to the collective. Having been in various positions where I have been able assist, or to facilitate the transfer of knowledge, inspiration or support to younger ones on their own paths, even to be able to transform someone’s daily experience by designing them a beautiful space or home, all of these things give me great joy and add meaning to my own life.   

 

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