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Winners of the 2015 Arts Journalism Awards Announced

Tony Lankester (NAF), Michelle Constant (BASA), Lwandile Fikeni and Gwen Ansell (head judge)
The winners of the 2015 Arts Journalism Awards were announced today in Johannesburg.

Lwandile Fikeni was awarded the overall Arts Journalist of the Year Award, as well as a silver award in the “Reviews” category and a gold in “Features”.

Broadcaster and writer Nigel Vermaas was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his “commitment to covering music of all genres and to mentoring the next generation of arts journalists”.

The winners list includes 10 gold and 23 silver awards for individual journalists, as well as one gold and three silver awards to media organisations.

Michele Magwood of the Sunday Times, who hosts the Magwood on Books Podcast on Books LIVE, won a silver award in the Reviews category.

Books LIVE editor Jennifer Malec won a gold award in the News category for her coverage of the “white literary system” debate that dominated the Franschhoek Literary Festival and South African books scene at large this year, specifically for the piece “‘Look at Yourselves – It’s Very Abnormal’: Thando Mgqolozana Quits South Africa’s ‘White Literary System’”, which convenor of judges Gwen Ansell called “one of the best pieces of online journalism I’ve ever seen”.

Press release

The National Arts Festival and Business and Arts South Africa announced the winners of the 2015 Arts Journalism Awards in Johannesburg today, naming freelance writer Lwandile Fikeni overall Arts Journalist of the Year.

The winners list includes 10 gold and 23 silver awards made to individual journalists, and a gold and three silver awards to media organisations for their nurturing of arts journalism. Additionally, a Lifetime Achievement Award was given to broadcaster and writer Nigel Vermaas, citing his “commitment to covering music of all genres and to mentoring the next generation of arts journalists”.

Fikeni was given a silver award in the “Reviews” category and a gold in “Features”, with the overall award coming his way on the basis of his versatility, and his ability to write “exceptionally well” for different audiences across a range of publications.

Commenting on the entries received, convener of the judging panel Gwen Ansell said: “The range of writers, and the depth and commitment of the content, has been impressive. In a time when newsrooms are faced with shrinking resources, it’s been encouraging to see how some newsrooms still make the effort to source original, high-quality arts writing. In addition, we’re increasingly seeing relevant issues being raised by distinctive individual voices on blogs and websites.”

Among the websites and blogs awarded this year, were The Con, Africa Is A Country, Litnet, The Critter and Books LIVE. City Press was given the overall Gold Media Organisation Award, the prize for which is a scholarship for one of their journalists to take part in the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF) Arts Journalism Course in early 2016. Other traditional publications such as Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times also dominated the final winners list.

More than 100 entries were received for the Awards, a “significant” increase on previous years, a figure that was described by the National Arts Festival as conveners of the Awards as “heartening”.

“As always, the largest numbers of entries were in the review and feature categories. But we have seen distinct growth this year in entries tackling hard news about the arts and creative industries and their debates & dilemmas. I hope that next year we’ll see a similar increase in entries from broadcasters and photographers: our smallest categories,” Ansell said.

The National Arts Festival and Business and Arts South Africa conceptualised and launched the Awards in 2013 to acknowledge some of the excellent work being done by arts journalists in newsrooms across the country.

“Journalists help us contextualise, understand, reflect on and make sense of the work of our artists and of the industry as a whole,” Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “We need strong journalism to be recognised as something that underpins and gives meaning to what we do – through these awards we want to acknowledge those journalists who critically engage with the sector and not just who act as praise singers. Although giving praise where it is due is also welcomed!” he said.

Business and Arts South Africa, who have been funding the award since its inception, agree that the narrative of the arts sector, as it is portrayed in the media, is a critical part of the arts landscape. “Good arts journalism is a supporter and driver of narrative and of storytelling. BASA believes implicitly in this storytelling, in order to deepen and continuously interrogate the role and value of the arts in society,” BASA CEO Michelle Constant said.

The complete list of winners is as follows:

BASA/National Arts Festival South African
Arts Journalism Awards 2014/5
Final list of winners

Gold Winners

(Name, Publication)
Edward Tsumele, Assorted
Siya Ngcobo, Cue
Steve Kretzmann, The Critter

Silver Winners
Ang Lloyd, Cape Times
Lwandile Fikeni, M&G
Maryke Roberts, Litnet
Michelle Magwood, Sunday Times
Nick Mulgrew, Assorted incl. M&G, Cue
Nigel Vermaas, Cue
Roger Young, City Press
Sindi‐Leigh McBride, Africa Is A Country
Thabo Jijana, The New Age

Gold Winners

(Name, Publication)
Garreth Van Niekerk, City Press
Jennifer Malec, Books LIVE

Silver Winners
Patience Bambalele, Sowetan
Sue Blaine, Business Day

Gold Winners

(Name, Publication)
Grethe Koen, City Press
Lloyd Gedye, The Con
Lwandile Fikeni, City Press

Silver Winners
Ashraf Jamal, Art Africa
Athi Mongezeleli Joja, M&G
Christiaan J De Swardt, Vrouekeur
Gugulethu Mhlungu, City Press
Sipesihle Mthembu, M&G
Stefanie Jason, M&G
Sue de Groot, Sunday Times Lifestyle
Tymon Smith, Sunday Times Lifestyle

Gold Winners

(Name, Publication)
Nigel Vermaas, Assorted

Silver Winners
Jessica Mulder, ENCA
Lerato Thipa, SABC

Gold Winners

(Name, Publication)
Betram Malgas, Netwerk24

Silver Winners
Madelene Cronje, M&G
Moeletsi Mabe, TMG/The Times

Gold Winners

City Press

Silver Winners

Art Africa
Mail & Guardian

Nigel Vermaas

Lwandile Fikeni (City Press)

Judging Panel 2015:
Gwen Ansell (Convenor)
Andrew Tshabangu
Sean O’Toole
Darryl Accone
Robyn Sassen
Rafs Mayet
Percy Mabandu
Jayne Morgan


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