Imaginarium award winners

Winner of the architect section of the PPC Imaginarium Awards, Roark Robertson, speaks about his concept for District Six.

The AVA Gallery in Church Street will be home to the winning pieces of the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards until Thursday June 14.

The PPC Imaginarium Awards, started by cement company PPC, is now running its fifth cycle, and entries are already open.

The competition highlights top emerging talent and assists up-and-coming artists and designers to launching their careers. Entrants stand to win their share of the total cash prize, valued at R520 000, as well as exposure and mentorships with industry leaders.

The overall winner, category winners and runners-up all have their work exhibited at the AVA Gallery.

The categories for this year’s competition were Fashion, Sculpture, Industrial Design, Jewellery and Film, as well as this year’s overall Architecture winner. All the entrants had to use concrete or cement in their pieces.

The competition has extended its reach from South Africa to Zimbabwe, and is running its first PPC Imaginarium Awards Zimbabwe in 2018. The Imaginarium Awards is the brainchild of Daniel van der Merwe, innovation architect at PPC.

He said that for 32 years, PPC had run the Young Concrete Sculptor Awards, and he recommended that all designers and disciplines should get the opportunity to show their work, and the company agreed.

He said big companies were always ready to sponsor sport, and arts fell under the radar. “I think that companies are starting to see the value of supporting art.”

In 2014, the first PPC Imaginarium Awards were introduced with the creative disciplines of jewellery, fashion, industrial design, architecture and film – and all pieces must be done using a medium of cement. “It’s very interesting to see what they come up with. They have to use cement in their designs and the approaches they come up with, especially in fashion and jewellery are very creative. It’s interesting to see how they embrace the material.

“Cement is versatile and inexpensive, and the end product shows that versatility, for example, in jewellery, they would use the cement as a stone, and in fashion, they will dip clothing in the cement – using cement other than the traditional way. It is so original and creative.”

Mr Van Der Merwe said up to now, the PPC Imaginarium Awards had reached thousands of emerging artists, and about 250 finalists’ work had been showcased. He said this was the first exhibition at the AVA Gallery, and that they had previously had exhibitions at Young Blood Gallery and Design Indaba.

“It’s all about building relationships with local galleries, but our main objective is to expose the artists and the CBD is the best place to do this. It’s the gallery hub, with things like First Thursdays becoming so popular.”

Winners of the architectural awards, Roark Robertson, Anna Stelzner and Ilaena Napier, all third-year graduate students from UCT, focused on District Six for their projects. The theme of this year’s architectural category was to find a space broken by apartheid and transform it.

Mr Robertson said: “We had to identify a hole in Cape Town caused by apartheid and we chose District Six. We looked at the land between CPUT and District Six that the City of Cape Town had not used yet because it’s contested.

“The projects both look at breaking down barriers between CPUT and the community.”

His project was what he called a gateway plaza, with art galleries, workshops, an amphitheatre and public space to make the area more accessible to the public. “The walking roof gives people freedom to explore the plaza.”

Ms Stelzer said their project looked at the old roads of District Six, and incorporated the roads into their design. “It focuses on walkways through District Six, and the routes of the building are inspired by that. We also looked at the mosque and how it relates to our building, and there is a clear visual of the mosque from the building.”

Asked what they would do with their prize money, Mr Robertson said he planned to buy a camera. “Next year I will be entering the film category of the Imaginarium Awards.”

Ms Stelzer and Ms Napier said they wanted to travel, and explore universities in other countries, as well as explore architecture there.

Runner-up, Esther Simonis, said her sculpture was inspired by the spine, an idea which developed planted when a neurosurgeon told her that her leg would no longer be able to support her, and that she would be wheelchair-bound. She then created her piece, called Vulnerability, which follows the design of the spine, showing that every part has it’s job to do, but also creates a functioning whole. “I used the white concrete because it’s strong, and there is a spinal cord running through it to string it together. The ‘vertebrae’ is made up of slabs much like X-rays and obscured for only the doctor and patient to know what is happening.”

Another runner-up, Carine Marais Bothma, said five years ago, her mother asked her to make a statue of Madiba. “My mom died three years ago, and the sculpture was still in the making.”

Her sculpture, called Forever Beautiful Madiba, was made to capture the inner beauty of the South African icon. “I’m a painter, and this is the first sculpture I have ever made. However, I’m a realistic painter, and I’ve learnt to look at things in different ways to capture the essence.”

She said she struggled to finish the piece, but the competition inspired her to complete it. “The cement is symbolic as well because it is a binding material, and just like that, Madiba bound us together as a country.”

Mr Van Der Merwe said every artist made strong relevant commentary with their work, pointing out that some pieces dealt with abuse, while others dealt with women empowerment. “This is the role of an artist, to make commentary, and that’s another layer of richness added to this competition.”

Fang Yu Lao, a runner-up in the jewellery section, showed her piece, called Queen Bee. The three-piece ring uses concrete as its attraction piece. “I tried to take something as beautifully natural as honeycomb and mimicked it with concrete to create this look. The three rings fit together and I called it Queen Bee. I want the wearer to feel empowered and feel that wherever you are, you can be the queen of your colony.”

The overall winner was Chris Soal, with his sculpture Imposed Structure to the Detriment of the Members. While the piece’s material speaks to the overall make-up of the city, the deflated soccer ball illustrates that in communities, children often play sports like soccer on all kinds of surfaces, with deflated balls. “My first question was: ‘what does cement remind me of? What is the first thing the material brings to mind?’ And that led me to memories from my childhood playing with scuffed (and often deflated) soccer balls on harsh surfaces like concrete and tar. The piece also made references to the 2010 Fifa World Cup and how it benefited South Africa. It refers to broken promises made by the government in this time, and corruption.

“Winning the PPC Imaginarium at this stage of my career is absolutely incredible. It has already done so much to bring more interest and support for my work, and it has opened doors which I did not expect to be walking through as of yet,” he said.

Mr Soal said his interest in the arts began as a child where the home he grew up in afforded him a place to be curious and ask questions. “Reading and exploring are some of the earliest activities I remember doing and fortunately I haven’t grown out of them. I was also fortunate that there were people early on in my career who supported me, bought artworks from me and helped build that confidence to pursue this as a career.”

He studied fine art at Wits School of Arts. And while studying art gave him a great foundation, it was what he learnt in spaces outside university that had shaped his artistic practice the most.

Mr Soal said most of his R150 000 prize money, would go into building a better and more functional studio, but some could be used to travel.

The exhibition is at the AVA Gallery until Thursday June 14. Opening times are Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday from 10am to 1pm. First Thursday events open at 6pm. Entries to the 2019 PPC Imaginarium Awards in South Africa and Zimbabwe are also open. To enter, visit