The prestigious £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award has been won by Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga for Wetereire – Waiting in the Royal Academy’s 253rd Summer Exhibition (open until 2nd January 2022). Established in 1978 and presented to the ‘most distinguished work’ in the exhibition, it is one of the most significant art prizes awarded in the UK.
Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga’s sculpture is informed by her upbringing amongst the Kikuyu people of Kenya. Working primarily with metal and wire, her unique works are created by combining traditional techniques with contemporary processes in a meditation upon the progression from past to present. Galvanized sheet metal – known as mabati – is intertwined with Gakunga’s childhood memories when grass thatch roofs on Kenyan homes were eventually replaced by mabati. Gakunga’s abstract, wallbased sculpture, Wetereire – Waiting, is made using the dying, weaving and oxidisation techniques that the artist frequently employs in her practice. These processes transform the raw sheet metal producing a range of chromatic effects. The resulting work references memory and experience whilst
reflecting upon wider issues such as the passing of time and the movement of peoples.
The judges for this year’s award were Sarah Howe, David Remfry RA and Professor Carol Tulloch. Previous winners: Joe Tilson RA (2019), Mike Nelson RA (2018), Isaac Julien RA (2017), David Nash RA (2016), Rose Wylie RA (2015), Wolfgang Tillmans RA (2014), El Anatsui Hon RA (2013), Anselm Kiefer Hon RA (2012), Alison Wilding RA (2011) and Yinka Shonibare RA (2010).
About the Artist
Gakunga studied and lectured in design at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, before continuing her graduate work at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. She has been included in exhibitions in the USA, UK, France, Brazil and Poland. In 2013, October Gallery presented her first UK solo exhibition Itu?ka – Transformation. In 2016, she was shortlisted for the Financial Times/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards and in 2017, her sculpture M?gogo -The Crossing was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition, London, UK. She lives
and works in San Antonio, Texas, USA.
Each year the Royal Academy of Arts presents a number of prizes for outstanding works within the
Summer Exhibition. This year the following have been awarded:
The Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture £10,000 for a sculpture: 1242 – Off IC3, Emmanuel Awuni
The British Institution Awards for Students Two prizes of £5,000 and £3,000 for work across a comprehensive range of creative disciplines from painting to architecture:
£5,000 – 506 – Lockdown: A Self Portrait, Mary Whitlock
£3,000 – 762 – Anchor, Pam Evelyn
The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize £5,000 for an original work on paper in any medium, where the
emphasis is clearly on drawing. The prize will be shared:
1303 – Experiencing British Art History, Nelly Dimitranova
301 – The Final Assembly, David Winthrop
The Arts Club Award £2,500 awarded to an artist aged 35 or under for a work in any medium except
326 – “Dis Wan Na Clone”, Ofunne Azinge
Sunny Dupree Family Award for a Woman Artist £4,000:
373 – Loop (Yellow), Angela de la Cruz
See the work at the Summer Exhibition 2021 – Sunday 2 January 2022
10am – 6pm Tuesday to Sunday (last admission 5.30pm)