Senzeni Mthwakazi Marasela (b. 1977 in Thokoza, South Africa) is the first recipient of the new K21 Global Art Award, presented by the Friends of K20K21. The K21 Global Art Award recognizes the vision and courage of artists at the beginning or in the middle of their careers and will be awarded annually to internationally recognized artists under the age of forty-five.
Senzeni Marasela is an interdisciplinary artist whose oeuvre encompasses performance, photography, video, embroidered textiles, printmaking, and installation. In 1998, she completed her art studies at the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. Her work has been exhibited widely in South Africa, Europe, and the United States and is included in important international collections. In 2015, Marasela was represented at the 56th Venice Biennale. She lives and works in Soweto, South Africa.
At the center of the selection of works acquired for the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein- Westfalen is a red dress. Theodora Mthetyane, the fictional alter ego of the artist Senzeni Marasela, received it as a gift from her husband Gebane when he left the rural countryside for the big city of Johannesburg to find work there. In Xhosa culture, the ornately printed Iseshweshwe dress is worn by married women and is common among the rural population. Theodora also wore it every day while she waited in vain for years for Gebane to return. Senzeni Marasela, who uses Theodora to allude to her own mother’s story and the situation of many South African women during the apartheid era, wore the dress herself every day for an extended period of six years (2013–2019). With this poignant performance, she embodied Theodora’s story, dedicated to the situation of waiting, loneliness, and hope, and experienced different reactions ranging from identification to discrimination. The project Waiting for Gebane culminated in Marasela’s first major institutional solo exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA in 2020, which included the groups of works presented here.
The annual K21 Global Art Award was established by the Friends of K20K21 in cooperation with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. The Award highlights the museum’s acquisition policy to further enrich the K21 collection with significant international voices.
The K21 Global Art Award has a jury of five renowned museum directors and curators from across the world. The 2022/23 jury consisted of Doryun Chong (M+, Hong Kong); Koyo Kouoh (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Capetown); Omar Kholeif (Sharjah Art Foundation, Government of Sharjah, UAE); Oluremi C. Onabanjo, The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Jochen Volz (Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo). Each Jury Member nominated two artists working cross-media. This list of ten artists was then submitted to the Friends of K20K21 Selection Committee, who in turn selected the winning artist.