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Meet the judges: Pfunzo Sidogi

Pfunzo Sidogi is a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology and a co-founder of a non-profit organisation that helps to improve the standard of art at selected schools within the City of Tshwane Metropolitan. With a passion for education and advancing the art industry in South Africa, Sidogi shares his thoughts on the current and future state of art and design in the country.

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Tell us a bit about yourself?  

I initially worked for the Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology at the University of South Africa before joining TUT in 2012. I am a member of the De Arte Journal editorial board, and serve on the councils of the South African Visual Art Historians (SAVAH) organisation and the Association of the Arts Pretoria. I am also a co-founder of Ithuteng Art, a non-profit organisation that promotes quality arts education in select schools located within the City of Tshwane Metropolitan.

Did you study formally, and if so, how did this inform your career?

Yes, I have received formal training in Fine Art. I obtained a Master’s Degree (with distinction) in 2012 from TUT and I am currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree from Stellenbosch University. The academic training was essential for my current vocation as a lecturer/teacher and researcher. The training I received was also integral to the formation and subsequent success of Ithuteng Art, the NPO I co-founded with two varsity classmates in 2008. The organisation, funded by the National Arts Council and the National Lotteries Commission, employs five artists (visual and performing) who are based, as teachers, in three schools across two City of Tshwane townships.

How do you feel about being nominated as a judge for the PPC Imaginarium Awards?

Being nominated as one of the judges for the PPC Imaginarium Awards is a great honour. I agreed to be judge because it offers me a front row perspective of the latest artistic and creative trends. This is extremely important for me as a lecturer who has to guide students to become trendsetters themselves.

What key aspects will you be looking at when judging contestants’ work?

The main attributes I consider when judging the work submitted are threefold. Firstly, I look at the formal qualities of the work, which are, but not limited to, the technical execution of the artwork/design and how the material has been crafted. Secondly, I consider the actual creativity or novelty of the artwork/design. Candidates have to submit work that induces me and other judges to say statements like, “wow, I have not seen that before”. Lastly, the artwork/design must be representative of our times. The visual forms created by the artists or designers need to speak to our ultra-modern age, so that people 50 years from now who encounter the artwork/design will get a sense or idea of ‘the spirit of 2016’.

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

I think the art and design scene in South Africa is extremely vibrant and interesting. The beauty of what our creatives are producing under trying conditions, it must be noted, is that it speaks to the local, whilst also being relevant globally. Furthermore, our art and design is highly competitive and sought after internationally, which is testament to the quality and attraction of what our artists and designers are making.

What do you think about the future of art and design in South Africa?

Part of the success of our creative industries, which I alluded to in the previous section, can be attributed to the solid and progressive training offered by our educational institutions on the one hand and the growing number of opportunities coming from industries associated with the arts on the other. I believe the future of art and design can only be positive if these two pillars continue to support our emergent artists and designs with the requisite skills, knowledge, training, employment and all manner of opportunities required to be globally competitive.

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

In my capacity as a lecturer at an institution of higher learning, the single most important advice I can give artists and designers is that they must immerse themselves in what they do. The creative industries are highly competitive and only the best (not necessarily the most talented) will have successful and sustainable careers. Therefore, artists and designers cannot do this half-heartedly, they must go all in, which means acquiring compmentary skills, other than the artistic, that will aid them to become rounded creatives.

What has been the highlight of your career?

There have been several highlights in my career as an academic and teacher thus far; however, the one that has been significant came in 2014 when I was awarded a residency in Vienna, Austria by KulturKontakt. 

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