Art in the Diaspora

Diébédo Francis Kéré Wins 2023 Praemium Imperiale

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The Japan Art Association has named architect Diébédo Francis Kéré the 2023 architecture laureate for the Praemium Imperiale awards.

At Kéré Architecture, Berlin, May 2023. Image courtesy of The Japan Art Association / The Sankei Shimbun

The Praemium Imperiale is a global arts prize awarded annually by the Japan Art Association. Since its inauguration in 1988, it has become a mark of the arts. Six nomination committees, each chaired by an International Advisor, propose candidates in five fields: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Theatre/Film. The artists are recognized and awarded for their achievements, for the impact they have had internationally on the arts, and for their role in enriching the global community. Each laureate receives an honorarium of 15 million yen and a testimonial letter.

By combining local materials and skills with innovative design and smart engineering solutions, while maintaining a focus on working with local communities, Diébédo Francis Kéré has transformed architecture not only in Burkina Faso, but also across Africa and beyond.  This year Diébédo Francis Kéré has been named the 2023 Praemium Imperiale laureate for architecture alongside Vija Celmins (Painting), Olafur Eliasson (Sculpture), Wynton Marsalis (Music) and Robert Wilson (Theatre/Film).

Opera Village School (Arquitectura). Image courtesy of BlackPast.

Diébédo Francis Kéré is a Burkinabe architect internationally known for his innovative, often sustainable, and collaborative work. Kéré was born on April 10, 1965, in the village of Gando in Burkina Faso. He was the eldest son of the village headman and the first in his community to go to school, only there was no school in the town of Gando, so he left his family at seven. He studied in Germany and established the Kéré Foundation to raise money for his ambition to design and build a school for his birthplace. In his projects in Africa, Kéré has focused on providing simple, achievable plans for buildings that utilize the skills and energies of the local community – employing traditional building materials and marrying them with modern design.

The architect has been a visiting professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Massachusetts, United States), Yale School of Architecture (Connecticut, United States), and holds the inaugural Chair of Architectural Design and Participation professorship at the Technische Universität München (Munich, Germany) since 2017. He is an Honorary Fellow of Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (2018) and the American Institute of Architects (2012) and a chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (2009).

Additional awards include the Cité de l ‘Architecture et du Patrimoine’s Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (2009), BSI Swiss Architectural Award (2010); the Global Holcim Awards Gold (2012, Zurich, Switzerland), Schelling Architecture Award (2014); Arnold W Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (2017); and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2021).

Surgical Clinic and Health Center. Image courtesy of  Francis Kéré/Archdaily.

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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