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Meet the Judges - Jay Pather, 2019


For the Cape Town round of the 2019 judging, we invited Jay Pather to be part of the process. This esteemed and multiple award-winning curator and cultural practitioner is active as a choreographer and director and currently works in Cape Town. He is the artistic director of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre, an associate professor at the University of Cape Town and director of the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts.

PPC Imaginarium

What were you looking forward to about your experience as a judge?

I was so looking forward to the range of entries and the ways in which this very particular task was interpreted, how a material like cement can be woven into something magical, aesthetically compelling and socially powerful.


What themes were you expecting to emerge in this year's PPC Imaginarium Awards? 

Themes that concern the world as we know it - while issues of beauty and aesthetics are important, our society is driven by several emergencies around race, class and gender.


How do you think young artists can gauge their success in the industry? 

It’s not always about commercial success. It is about making a difference and an impact. It’s clear to see this based on how people’s lives are affected and to what extent, and not just what the financial rewards were.


What were you looking for as a judge?

Certainly, an eye for innovation, clarity of vison, a sense and understanding of the audience or viewer as human, and meticulous execution.


Please tell us a little about your own career and how this experience is relevant to the PPC Imaginarium Awards and your role as a judge?

I am a curator for several exhibitions and festivals in various parts: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Madrid, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Munich, Paris and I’ve been a judge for the International Award for Public Art, so my sense of what would work is informed by global trends as well as local impact. I have also spoken for the Independent Curators International in such diverse places as New York, Accra and New Orleans, so this would inform my role in how something may be quintessentially of this country or this continent but also speak across cultures.

At the same time, I am also a teacher and I have great patience with originality that is not always immediately accessible. I am all for opacity, something that is not immediately transparent or accessible, that is mysterious and puzzling, that is not instantaneous, that makes you work to arrive at its meaning and intention.

What tip/s would you give to someone just starting out in their career.

Be open to criticism, be open to diverse influences, listen carefully… Many people have your best interests at heart, find those and hear what they say. No matter the vastness of one’s talent or skill, find the humility in understanding the world as complex, that your view will always only be partial.

But nevertheless, it is a world in great need of you, your skill, your innovation and mostly, your compassion. It is also a fragile world under many threats - not least, our crumbling ecosystems. Ask what place you and your work have in this, however small. Try to fill these gaps where you can.


What does innovation mean to you?

We are all (and it is not just a cliché) unique creatures. We have been put together through so many experiences and diverse influences. Innovation then is not what you do or what exists on the outside, it is looking deeply at what is inside of one. It is in here that true innovation exists in abundance.

When we think of education, like innovation, we think of getting knowledge in. But ‘educate’ - from the word ‘educare’ - translates from Latin as ‘to draw out’.

Innovation is inside of one waiting to be let loose. That takes courage and risk and putting oneself on the line. That, for me, is innovation, drawing from the inside, using one’s skill to give it form, and having the courage to take that risk.

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