The National Arts Festival in association with Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) presented its annual Arts Journalism Awards, earlier today, 6 July 2014. Held in Grahamstown, the awards are presented to outstanding South African arts journalists. For the second consecutive year, Arts editor of City Press, Charl Blignaut won first prize: South Africa’s Arts Journalist of the Year. Blignault was commended on the scope of his portfolio and not least of all the vigour with which he wrote about the arts landscape in South Africa. Blignault had this to say: “I think winning this award is really cool, but I am a bit conflicted,” he said. “It is time we started reflecting about the space we occupy as arts reporters. I think we need to make this space relevant for readers. It is changing.” “My hopes were that there would have been some deserving black journalist winning the award. The number of white names in the shortlist shows that we are not transformed yet.” After winning successively Blignault has decided not to enter next year’s competition. As winner Blignault receives R5 000 and the chance to join a South African production that will be invited to one of the World Fringe Alliance Fringe Festivals overseas. Along with the top prize, there are awarded six Gold merit and five Silver special merit awards; with both Gold and Silver being awarded in the respective categories.
• Gold award: Anna Stielau; Oliver Roberts
• Silver special merit: Nick Mulgrew; Rob Boffard
• Silver award: Charl Blignaut; Matthew Krouse; Bruce Dennill Reviews
• Gold award: Matthew Krause; Steve Kretzmann
• Silver special merit: Eugene Yiga
• Silver award: Ang Lloyd; Steyn du Toit News and Investigative
• Gold award: Charl Blignaut
• Silver special merit: Brooks J Spector
• Silver award: Yazeed Kamaldien; Matthew Blackman Photography
• Gold award: Theana Breugem
• Silver special merit: Jesse Kramer
• Silver award: Sizwe Ndingane; Alet Pretorius
Tony Lankester, CEO of the National Arts Festival, had nothing but praise for the winners but spoke ominously about the amount of coverage the arts receives in South Africa. He said: “By whittling away at the amount of coverage the arts gets, and the resources allocated to covering the sector, the media are contributing to the erosion of the public’s understanding of the arts and appreciation of the work of our artists.” To qualify for an award, entries had to be published or broadcast in 2013. However debate about whether an ‘observed’ award is more appropriate award that an ‘entered’ one was raised. Lankester said that a process of consultation would be reassessed.
– By Khanyile Mlotshwa and Sean Black