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Kapwani Kiwanga wins the $100K Sobey Art Award

Kapwani Kiwanga, from Hamilton, Ont., was presented with the $100,000 Sobey Art Award at a gala ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday.

The Hamilton, Ont.-born installation and performance artist calls her recent work 'exit strategies'

Kapwani Kiwanga's work, using using archival materials and referencing anthropology, agriculture, and urban design and other sources, reveals the 'global effects of the colonial project' and helps audiences to 'see the world differently,' the jury said in its decision. (www.kapwanikiwanga.org)

Installation and performance artist Kapwani Kiwanga has won the prestigious 2018 Sobey Art Award, one of the most valuable prizes for artists in Canada.

Kiwanga, from Hamilton, Ont., was presented with the $100,000 prize at a gala ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday night.

"The Sobey Art Award is a humbling encouragement to continue to make work that asks us to look anew at society and its past while allowing us to imagine unbounded possibilities," she said, upon receiving the award.

A rising star in the Canadian contemporary art scene, Kiwanga tackles a wide range of subjects in her work, blurring the line between truth and fiction. One reoccurring theme is the power imbalance that can occur in human interactions.

Recently, she has been considering her work as "exit strategies," where the audience can escape from daily structure and think about the future in a new way.

Trained in the social sciences, including anthropology, Kiwanga worked in documentary filmmaking before devoting herself to the visual arts. 

In its decision, the jury said her work "using archival materials and referencing anthropology, agriculture, and urban design and other sources" reveals the "global effects of the colonial project" and helps audiences to "see the world differently."

She is the fifteenth Canadian artist under 40 to win the award and currently lives and works in Paris, France.

Kiwanga represented the Ontario region as a finalist among a short list from across the country. 

The 2018 runners up, each receiving a prize of $25,000, are:

  • Atlantic region: Jordan Bennett. 
  • Quebec: Jon Rafman. 
  • Prairies and the North: Joi T. Arcand. 
  • West Coast and the Yukon: Jeneen Frei Njootli.

Created in 2001, the Sobey Art Award helps emerging artists to build on their practice through financial support and to develop their profile and network. 

A total of $240,000 in prize money was awarded this year: $100,000 for the overall winner, $25,000 to each of the four shortlisted artists, and $2,000 to each of the remaining 20 longlisted artists. 

The work of all five shortlisted artists will be on view at the National Gallery until Feb. 10, 2019.

A rising star in the Canadian contemporary art scene, Kiwanga tackles a wide range of subjects in her work, blurring the line between truth and fiction. (National Gallery of Canada)

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