18th April 2024

S04 E07: ‘The Art Prize’ with Bulumko Mbete and Buhlebezwe Siwani

Art conversations in South Africa

In this final episode of the season, we delve into the multifaceted world of art prizes. with two remarkable artists – Bulumko Mbete and Buhlebezwe Siwani, each bringing their unique perspective and experiences to the table.

Bulumko, the 2024 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sokoto Award winner and 2023 recipient of the Cassirer Welz Award, is currently doing her MFA at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. Her practice reflects her deep exploration of craft and design methodologies, particularly those traditionally performed by women in Southern Africa. She offers candid insights into the transformative potential of art prizes in shaping artists careers, alongside a nuanced reflection on the uncertainties and complexities they entail.

Amsterdam-based Buhlebezwe was the recipient of the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2021 and has recently been shortlisted amongst 21 artists from all over the world for the 2024 Future Generations Art Prize. Buhlebezwe, whose practice explores spirituality through performance, installation, photography, and more, shares insights into the impact of these awards on her practice, and offers advice to emerging artists on applying for prizes while emphasizing the importance of resilience and kindness in the art world.

In separate conversations with each artist which will feature in two parts in this episode, we examine the implications, benefits, and challenges of both grassroots prizes and highly esteemed prizes. In both interviews, we navigate a spectrum of perspectives, embracing both the optimism surrounding artist prizes’ potential to elevate artist visibility and the healthy skepticism that prompts us to critically examine their broader implications.


Bulumko Mbete is a creative practitioner with a multicultural heritage, based in Johannesburg. She undertakes research in different forms of craft and design methodologies which are predominantly performed by women in Southern Africa. She is the 2023 recipient of the Cassirer Welz Award and the ABSA L’Atellier Gerard Sekoto Award, 2023. 

Bulumko is a current MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon University and completed her BFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town.

Buhlebezwe Siwani was raised in Johannesburg. Siwani works predominantly in the medium of performance and installations, she includes photographic stills and videos of some performances. She uses the videos and the stills as a stand in for her body which is physically absent from the space. Siwani completed her BFA(Hons) at the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg in 2011 and her MFA at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in 2015. She has exhibited at the Michaelis Galleries in Cape Town, a site-specific exhibition in collaboration with APEX Art, New York City, in 13th Avenue, Alexandra township, Commune 1, and Stevenson in Cape Town.

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