National Museum of African Art Will Hold Its Second Annual African Art Awards Dinner Oct. 27

Ghada Amer and Mary Sibande Are Honorees

June 12, 2017

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art will hold its second annual African Art Awards Dinner Friday, Oct. 27, at 6:30 p.m. The dinner will take place in the Smithsonian’s iconic Arts and Industries Building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Tickets are available on the museum’s website or by phone at (202) 633-3773 beginning July 5.

Recognizing significant contributions in contemporary African art and philanthropy on the continent, this second annual event will honor the artistic achievements and generosity of individuals who are influencing the way the global community experiences the dynamic and diverse arts of Africa.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “honor, Inspire and Include.” It will feature artists, speakers and honorees as part of the museum’s larger women’s initiative—a commitment begun in in 2012 and launched in 2017 to emphasize the creative voices of African women artists through the National Museum of African Art’s collections, research, publications and exhibitions. The 2017 artist honorees are Ghada Amer and Mary Sibande.

“We are delighted to recognize the outstanding achievements of Ghada Amer and Mary Sibande, two remarkable women artists whose beautifully realized and compelling works of art recognize the potency of women to confront globally relevant issues of gender, identity, inequality, access, privilege and power. Engaging our visitors in understanding the aesthetic achievements of historic and contemporary African artists is at the heart of our museum’s mission,” said Christine Mullen Kreamer, acting director of the museum. “Their works address women’s rights and social justice, concerns that dovetail with the museum’s emphasis on exploring diversity and inclusion through the arts.” 

Guests will enjoy cocktails, a seated dinner designed by guest chef Carla Hall and presentations of the African Art awards. The African Art Awards Dinner is the premier annual fundraising event to support the museum’s mission.

The 2017 Awardees

Sibande was born in Barberton, South Africa, in 1982. She obtained her Diploma in Fine Arts at the Witwatersrand Technikon in 2004 and a B-Tech degree from the University of Johannesburg in 2007. Sibande, whose mother and grandmother were domestic laborers, was one of the first in her family to achieve such a high level of education. She drew on this history to inspire her artistic practice, particularly through her recurring character and alter ego, Sophie. In many of Sibande’s sculptural and photographic works, Sophie wears an instantly recognizable maid’s uniform to which Sibande adds glamorous references to Victorian costumes. The resulting dresses consciously upend the master/servant dichotomy, transforming laborers into super “she-roes,” conquerors and belles of the ball. Sibande’s work critiques stereotypical depictions of women and privileged ideals of femininity, particularly those surrounding black and African women. Her practice powerfully examines identity construction and power dynamics within a post-colonial, post-apartheid South African context.

Sibande was a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow in 2011 at National Museum of African Art, where her work is also held in the permanent collection. Her work is in public collections in South Africa and around the world, including the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio and the University of Kansas’s Spencer Museum of Art. It has also been featured in venues that include the 54th Venice Biennale and 2011’s Paris Photo. She lives and works in Johannesburg.

Amer was born in Cairo in 1963. She relocated with her parents to France in 1974 and began her artistic training in 1984 at the Villa Arson in Nice, France.

Amer gained prominence with her large-scale embroidered sculptural installations and canvases that, through their delicate depictions of explicit subjects, defy and transcend objectification of the female body. She has since explored mediums as diverse as painting, sculpture, ceramics and public garden projects (including a site-specific work of land art for the National Museum of African Art’s “Earth Matters” exhibition in 2013). Her work was also featured in the museum’s 2005 exhibition “TEXTures: Word and Symbol in Contemporary African Art” and the museum’s 2007 exhibition and publication “Inscribing Meaning: Writing and Graphic Systems in African Art.”

Traditional notions of cultural identity, abstraction and religious fundamentalism are upended in Amer’s work. She consistently explores the ambiguities within categories like East and West, feminine and masculine, art and craft. Amer is also a fearless advocate for women’s rights and social justice.

Amer was a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow in 2007, the first year of the program, at the National Museum of African Art. Her work is held in public collections around the world, and it has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions at venues, including the Johannesburg Biennale in 1997, the 48th Venice Biennale (where she was awarded the UNESCO prize) and, in 2000, New York’s Whitney Biennial and South Korea’s Gwangju Biennale. In 2008, a retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in their Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. She currently lives and works between New York and Paris.

About the National Museum of African Art

The National Museum of African Art is America’s only major museum dedicated to the collection, conservation, study and exhibition of traditional and contemporary African art. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. The museum is located at 950 Independence Avenue S.W., near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. For more information about this program, call (202) 633-4600 or visit the museum’s website at For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

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[Category: Society and Culture]