The A-Listers

SOCIALS | Tutu to trumpet, these are the arts' hottest young things

04 November 2018 - 00:00 By Craig Jacobs

It's the creative arts' biggest pat on the back for up-and-comers - and this year the organisers of the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Awards eschewed the typical conference venue for a spot with a more pan-African flavour.
That's how I found myself at one of Joburg's hottest culinary destinations, Epicure in Sandton, for the announcement of the five talented artists who made the cut.
Walking into the venue, which in typical Sandton style is set in an enclave flanked by upmarket apartments, I make a beeline for someone you could call the Naomi Campbell of dance.
That's ballerina Kitty Phetla, who, among her slew of achievements, can lay claim to being the first black performer to dance The Dying Swan in Russia.
Kitty, wearing a striking Kisua shift, is there with Joburg Ballet peer Nicole Ferreira Dill, who will perform the title role in a coming production of Cinderella.
Then it's in to the 160-seat restaurant, where I meet its Belgian-Burundian chef, Coco Reinarhz.
The multi-award-winning chef's menu for the night blends classic French cooking techniques with African flavours - think Venda-style magwinya fritters with spinach and peanut-butter stuffing, chicken wings coated in moambe (palm butter), Senegalese-style barramundi with yam puree, and bite-sized boerewors rolls.
On to the official proceedings, and we are welcomed by the night's MC, actress Masasa Mbangeni, following a montage of previous alumni - from opera diva Sibongile Khumalo to artist William Kentridge, playwright Brett Bailey and thespian Richard E Grant.
No sight of luminaries like Sibongile and William, though I do spot Brett in the crowd.
Other guests include actresses Linda Sokhulu and Kgomotso Christopher, and the night also teems with arts world players such as the Market Theatre's Ishmael Mohammed and the National Lottery's Shershan Naidoo, who I spy taking a selfie during the speeches.
So, who scored the nod this year?
They include jazz trumpeter and composer Mandla Mlangeni, pianist Megan-Geoffrey Prins and multidisciplinary visual artist Gabrielle Goliath.
Mandla quips that he googled "acceptance speech template" the night before for tips on what to say but decided instead to speak from the heart, encouraging us to "tell your story".
Megan-Geoffrey chokes up when he ends his speech by thanking his wife for her support.
I am over the moon when Kitty's name is called, and the ballerina exclaims, "Sebenza, girl!" as she accepts her trophy.
Meanwhile, the night also sees the first time an award is bestowed on the sibling of a previous winner when playwright Amy Jephta, the sister of bassist and composer Benjamin, accepts her acknowledgement.
Later on, I meet Amy and Benjamin's parents, Mogamat and Sharon, and ask them for their secret to raising creatively gifted offspring.
"Just let them fly," answers Mogamat, himself a jazz guitarist and singer.
Entertainment comes in the form of the Afrika Mkhize Quartet.
As for sweet treats to end off the evening, Coco serves up mikate (West African fried dough balls) with peanut-butter ice cream, figs in orange-flower tea served with Moroccan caramel, and pineapple in cardamom syrup with a chai mousse.

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