The Return of Balot, film still / CATPC, 2024, image by Jurgen Lisse

S+T+ARTS Prize Africa Winners

These are the winners of the S+T+ARTS Prize Africa 2024:

Grand Prize

Balot NFT
Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise – CATPC (CD)

Awards of Distinction

Black Body Radiation: Rescripting Data Bodies
Ama BE (GH/US), Ameera Kawash (PS/US)

Dzata: The Institute of Technological Consciousness
Russel Hlongwane (ZA), Francois Knoetze and Amy Wilson
– Lo-Def Factory (ZA)

Sand Gardens
Mohamed Sleiman Labat (EH)

The Metadata Memoir
Minne Atairu (NG)

Jury Statement

For Africa and the World – A Way Forward 

Andrea Barschdorf-Hager, Mónica Bello, Oscar Ekponimo, Judith Okonkwo, Kathleen Siminyu 

The STARTS Prize Africa is the first foray into other geographical regions for the STARTS initiative. In this first edition we welcomed 405 entries from 35 countries across the African continent. By its very nature the prize is intended to foster the knowledge sharing and collaboration between Europe and Africa—a previously undeveloped potential. 

The pre-selection session left the jury with 90 submissions to review and deliberate on. As you will see in the winning cohort, we explored a range of topical issues presented in artistic, provocative, and powerful forms. The diversity of this continent of 54 nations was striking, but through it all a number of themes emerged, in many ways mirroring recent global movements and popular sentiment. What does it mean to be African? To remain separated from the artefacts of your ancestors and the blessings they contain? To be aware of the history of physical exploitation? To be unbound by the present, reveling in what might have been our past, in our present, and in the future we want? To connect to both the natural and the built environment? To be repositories of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next? 

As the jury for this first edition of the STARTS Prize Africa, awarded by the European Union, we are delighted to be able to highlight the exceptional works that have emerged from this collaboration. This Prize serves as a beacon, illuminating the path towards increased collaboration between European and African artists and scholars, and fostering dynamic forms of exchange across borders and disciplines. 

The works presented in this competition exemplify exceptional artistic quality. They demonstrate innovative techniques, meticulous attention to detail, and boundless creative expression. Artists seamlessly weave elements of traditional craftsmanship with digital technology, engaging in interdisciplinary collaboration to produce visually stunning and conceptually rich works. From immersive installations to interactive experiences, these works demonstrate a mastery of technical skill. They utilize cutting-edge tools and technologies to engage audiences and provoke thought. 

In addition, the themes of these works resonate deeply with the African context. They address issues such as the return of looted African art, social and environmental challenges, inequality, and cultural preservation. Each work serves as a catalyst for dialogue and collective action, urging viewers to confront pressing African and global issues with empathy and determination. 

A striking aspect of these artworks is their speculative exploration of the future. They offer visionary glimpses into the potential trajectories of African societies. Artists envision vibrant futures marked by innovation, sustainability, and social justice through mediums ranging from sculpture to virtual reality. These speculative narratives inspire hope and aspiration. They empower communities to actively shape their destinies. 

Urban planning and environmental stewardship emerge as central themes in this artistic discourse. They reflect the urgent need for sustainable development in Africa’s rapidly growing cities. Artists reimagine urban landscapes as dynamic ecosystems, integrating green spaces, renewable energy sources, and inclusive design principles to promote resilience and well-being. 

In addition, these works confront the complex intersections of identity and representation, particularly as they relate to Black bodies in contemporary society. Artists challenge stereotypes and amplify marginalized voices, fostering a more inclusive and equitable cultural landscape through nuanced representation and critical inquiry. 

Indigenous knowledge systems also feature prominently in this artistic dialogue, serving as reservoirs of wisdom and resilience in the face of modern challenges. While honoring ancestral wisdom and exploring innovative approaches to social transformation, artists draw on indigenous traditions and practices. 

The issue of restitution looms large in this creative discourse. It calls attention to historical injustices and the need for reconciliation. Artists advocate for the return of looted artifacts and the restoration of cultural sovereignty, and address issues of ownership and heritage. 

The STARTS Prize Africa celebrates creativity, collaboration, and resilience across continents and disciplines. These artworks not only push the boundaries of artistic expression, but also serve as catalysts for social change, inspiring collective action towards a more just and sustainable future for Africa and beyond.  

As we welcome you to explore the being of Africa through myriad lenses that represent connections forged by geography, time, and kinship, we appreciate that the African discourse whether it be revealed through story or invention, through sound or theorem, is one that we are all the more richer for engaging with. 

STARTS4AFRICA is funded by the European Union under the STARTS – Science, Technology and Arts initiative of DG CNECT (GA no. LC-01960720). Views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or DG CNECT. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.