2023 FNB Art Prize: Lindokuhle Sobekwa Emerges Winner

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FNB Art Joburg’s mission continues to sustainably support and expand the cultural landscape of the continent in ways that extend beyond the fair. One way of achieving their goal is through their yearly FNB Art Prize.

Last Month, the fair announced on Instagram the latest addition to their prize’s hall of fame. By winning the prize, documentry photographer Lindokuhle Sobekwa becomes the first documentarian to join previous winners Dada Khanyisa, Wycliffe Mundopa, Lady Skollie, Bronwyn Katz, Haroon Gunn-Salie, Peju Alatise, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Turiya Magadlela, Portia Zvavahera, Nelisiwe Xaba, Mocke J van Veuren, and Kudzanai Chiurai.

As the winner of the 2023 prize, Sobekwa will receive a cash prize as well as a solo exhibition at Johannesburg Art Gallery where the largest art collection, on the continent, resides. Image courtesy of Goodman Gallery.

Born 1995, Lindokuhle Sobekwa is a South African photographer from Katlehong, Johannesburg. He began learning photography skills in 2012, through the Of Soul and Joy photography education programme in Thokoza township, where his family had moved. He studied with Bieke Depoorter, Cyprien Clément-Delmas, Thabiso Sekgala, Tjorven Bruyneel and Kutlwano Moagi.

As a young boy, he was aware that he imagined his thoughts and experienced things through visualization. He became aware of the existence of tools that could externalize his cognitive processes when he came upon cameras. These tools included a small machine, a roll of translucent plastic with perforations, and a chemical reaction. Sobekwa’s practice uses the camera to historically contemplate the present. Soaked in materialism and subtly resolving geographical and temporal distances, in his hand the camera invites absent presences, that were there when his images were made, into the present.

According to The Conversation, the two series that won him the FNB Art Prize are Lockdown and Ezilalini (The Country). While Lockdown follows life in Thokoza – Sobekwa’s photographs in this series depict the gradual development of how the pandemic aggravated the violent conditions brought on by extreme inequality. But there are also moments of beauty, love and community. Ezilalini is a journey to Tsomo in the Eastern Cape province, from where his grandfather and then his mother migrated. Black South Africans were forced confined to tiny boundaries by apartheid, who also gave white farmers access to the agricultural land where they had previously resided for generations. Many people sought work as migrant laborers in the cities because they were unable to make ends meet in these so-called homelands.

Ezilalini. Image courtesy of Lindokuhle Sobekwa and the conversation.

The 2023 FNB Art Prize jury is made up of Abigail Rands (marketing manager of Krone), Dr Joy Simmons (collector, philanthropist, radiologist), and Kim Kandan (fair manager, FNB Art Joburg representative). On their decision, the jury for the 2023 FNB Art Prize said; “Creating compelling documentary photography, Lindokule Sobekwa’s work represents an explicitly South African narrative. He brings into focus a poignant reality in which both strife and soft moments exist – exposing, questioning and reflecting on current times and experiences.”

Faye Mfikwe, FNB Chief Marketing Officer, said, “We congratulate Lindokuhle on winning the coveted FNB Art Prize. The FNB Art Prize was created to recognise talent and innovation in the arts. As a result, we are delighted to see artists pushing the boundaries of conventional thinking through creative expression. As a brand and trusted partner, we remain committed to supporting and growing the creative economy on the African continent.”

Lockdown. Image courtesy of Lindokuhle Sobekwa and the conversation.

In 2013, Sobekwa was part of a group show in Thokoza organised by Rubis Mecenat at the Ithuba Art Gallery in Johannesburg. His essay Nyaope was published in the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian in 2014. The work was also published in Vice Magazine’s Annual Photo Issue, and the De Standaard the same year.

In 2015, Sobekwa received a scholarship to study at the Market Photo Workshop where he completed his foundation course. His series Nyaope was exhibited in the ensuing group show, Free From My Happiness, organised by Rubis Mecenat at the International Photo Festival of Ghent in Belgium. In 2016, he left South Africa for a Residency in Tehran, Iran, with the No Man’s Art Gallery. The same year his work was displayed in the travelling iteration of Free from my Happiness.

His work features in the book Free from my Happiness edited by Bieke Depoorter and Tjorven Bruyneel . He also took part part in the group show Fresh Produce, organized by Assemblages and VANSA at the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg. Lindokuhle Sobekwa is also an assistant to the Of Soul and Joy Project Manager as well as a trainee at Mikhael Subotzky Studio.

In 2017, Sobekwa was selected by the Magnum Foundation for Photography and Social Justice to develop the project I Carry Her Photo With Me. In 2018, he received the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his longterm project Nyaope, and has been selected for the residency Cité des Arts Réunion.

Sobekwa became a Magnum Nominee in 2018. In 2022 the artist made his museum show debut at Huis Marseille in the Netherlands before becoming a member of Magnum Photos and receiving the inaugural John Kobal Foundation Fellowship.

Lockdown. Image courtesy of Lindokuhle Sobekwa and the conversation.

As the winner of the 2023 prize, Sobekwa will receive a cash prize as well as a solo exhibition at Johannesburg Art Gallery where the largest art collection, on the continent, resides.


Bardi Osobuanomola Catherine is a budding storyteller. Her academic credentials include a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Benin. She has contributed to numerous Art publications across Africa. She is currently a Writer for Art News Africa.

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