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Mongezi Ncaphayi Awarded the Inaugural Africa First Art Prize for 2019

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

Mongezi Ncaphayi

The AFAP Jury is pleased to award Mongezi Ncaphayi as the 2019 winner by unanimous decision. Following a debate about the 5 highest ranking proposals, Ncaphayi quickly emerged as the most deserving of the opportunity for a fully funded 2 month residency in Israel.

The applications for the inaugural Africa First Art Prize came from artists with diverse approaches to contemporary artistic practice, both conceptual and material, and from a spectrum between emerging to established, so the challenge for the jury was to select only one recipient. In addition to artistic merit, a number of factors came into our decision, including how the prize could impact or grow an artist’s practice and career, the proposal that they submitted (and its feasibility within the constraints of the residency), and the context of the residency itself. After a number of proposals were seriously debated, Mongezi Ncaphayi was chosen for his sophisticated approach to abstraction, evolving a visual language that isn’t often associated with modern and contemporary South African art, despite artists such as Ernest Mancoba redefining the discipline. Mongezi continues this tradition, balancing improvisation with a considered approach to art making. We believe his practice and career will be positively impacted by receiving this prize.

I am excited at the prospect of having Mongezi spend a couple of months with us in Israel. Hopefully his experience will be as memorable and significant for his practice as it has been for preceding artists. I have followed his evolution closely for the past few years and couldn’t be more satisfied by the decision of the fantastic AFAP jury for our inaugural prize winner. We look forward to presenting a new body of Ncaphayi’s work, produced during the residency, at ICTAF 2020.”
Serge Tiroche, Founder - Africa First

Owen Martin, Chief Curator, Norval Foundation

Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Artist

Simon de Pury, Former Chief Auctioneer, Collector & DJ

Serge Tiroche, Collector and founder of Africa First

Marie-Ann Yemsi, Independent Curator & Consultant


  • All expenses covered by Africa First, including return flight, insurance, accommodation, a spacious studio, working materials, local transportation, on the ground assistance, shipping of works as well as a 50 USD per day stipend for the duration of the residency

  • Artists are encouraged to explore the country, interact with the local art scene and produce an innovative body of work influenced by their experience

  • A solo presentation at the ICTAF VIP Lounge in 2020 (works produced during the residency will be shipped to Cape Town at the expense of Africa First)

  • With the artist’s consent, two works to be donated: One to Norval Foundation and one to the Africa First collection


  • 15 applications, of which 5 female and 10 male; 8 South Africans + 7 other countries (1 of each)

  • All under 50 and evenly spread (5 born in the 70s, 6 in the 80s and 4 in the 90s); Ages 24-48.

  • Interesting fact: the 5 Female candidates were also the 5 youngest!


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