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Contemporary cultural precinct HOTA, Home of the Arts has today announced wani toaishara as the winner of the 2022 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award.

One of Australia’s most significant awards for contemporary photographic practice, the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award provides a national platform for emerging and established artists working in the broad medium of contemporary photography.

wani toaishara has been awarded the $25,000 acquisitive award,the richest prize for photography in Queensland, for his work do black boys go to heaven.

toaishara’s practice, based in videography and performance, responds to African affairs and visual culture while interrogating dislocation for those on the margins. Recently incorporating photography into his practice, the winning work do black boys go to heaven is informed by research into African archival material and deep dialogue with family and friends. toaishara connects visual language and spoken word to explore identity which is reinforced in the artist’s statement:

“This is for the bodies painted spectacle long before they could even speak. For that child who was told that their strength was found in silence because speaking made them weak. For those bones so small that their gravestones outsized their casket. For all those tokens who’ve been called broken as they contemplate their suicide. We are worthy. Here. Still.” wani toaishara

Winning artist wani toaishara said: As a person whose primary form of art making is videography with a background in performance, specifically experimental theatre, photography is something I’ve always loved but only recently had the courage to start practicing publicly and incorporating within my practice. Winning this validates that choice and the courage it took to explore it. It’s a huge honour to even be selected amongst these incredible finalists, but an even bigger one to win the award.”

wani toaishara was announced as the winner from a finalist group of 40 works, selected from over 260 submissions, by Isobel Parker Philip, Senior Curator of Contemporary Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW).

Judge of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award 2022, Isobel Parker Philip said: There is a quiet powerfulness to wani toaishara’s do black boys go to heaven. It is a power made explicit in the subjects’ strong and self-assured expressions, but also written into the way that wani knowingly plays with (and exposes) the conventions of studio portraiture. The two figures are confident yet slightly stilted; they are dressed up but aren’t wearing shoes; the fabric backdrop has been carefully chosen to match their dresses and yet we see the clips securing it in place. Standing in this makeshift studio, the figures feel close to the surface of the image. This sense of intimacy and immediacy, as well as their open, front-facing posture, is striking but it is also a political gesture. wani turns a simple portrait into an assertion of presence and visibility. The two subjects ask us to see them as they are. As wani so movingly notes in his artist statement, ‘Worthy. Here. Still.’”

To strengthen HOTA Gallery’s impressive collection of contemporary Australian photography, this year, an additional $25,000 was available for acquisitions and the following works were acquired – Aaron Chapman, Purple is Black Blooming 2020; Petrina Hicks, Hercules 2021; Katrin Koening, untitled from between the river and the sea 2021 and Jemima Wyman, Flourish 10 2020.

Tracy Cooper-Lavery, Director, Gallery and Visual Arts, HOTA said:“Two decades on, the Josephine Ulrick

and Win Schubert Photography Award continues to attract outstanding artists representing the very best of contemporary photography in Australia, from emerging artists to established practitioners. These incredible works alongside the previous winners and acquisitions, repeatedly capture our attention, asking us to contemplate our world experience through the lens of contemporary art.”

Criena Gehrke, HOTA CEO said: “HOTA continues to be grateful for the incredible legacy that Win Schubert provided through a private donation to support this award and honour the memory of Josephine Ulrick. It is thanks to Win’s vision and support that HOTA has been able to continue to grow one of Australia’s most significant contemporary photography collections.”

The 40 finalist works represent a selection of cross-generational and culturally diverse artists working at the forefront of photographic media including Abdul Abdullah, Michael Cook, Jo Duck, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Naomi Hobson, The Huxleys, Paula Mahoney, Petrina Hicks and Jemima Wyman.

The full selection of finalist works are presented alongside a retrospective of previous winners and acquired works, in an exclusive exhibition at HOTA Gallery highlighting the impact of the award over the past two decades. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, visitors to the exhibition also get to choose their favourite artwork with the inclusion for the first time of a $5,000 People’s Choice Award. 

Showcasing the next generation of Australian contemporary photographers between ages 5 to 17 years, an exhibition of the finalists of the Young Crop Photography Award is on display at HOTA Gallery to coincide with the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award.

A new HOTA Collects exhibition Punching Up | 21st Century Indigenous Photography is also presented featuring the works of six 21st century First Nation photographic practitioners including Michael Cook, Tony Albert, Vernon Ah Kee, Karla Dickens, Fiona Foley and Naomi Hobson.

Australia’s largest public gallery outside a capital city, the new $60.5 million HOTA Gallery opened on Australia’s Gold Coast in May 2021. Designed by award-winning Melbourne-based architects ARM, the Gallery spans six

levels and during its first 12 months has already attracted visitors from across the world with a dynamic program of world premiere exhibitions, Australian exclusives and new commissions.

The 2023 exhibition program will be announced later this year.

The full list of finalists selected for the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award: Abdul Abdullah; Tarik Ahlip; Anthea Behm; Yuriyal Eric Bridgeman; Kieran Butler; Maria Fernanda Cardoso; Anna Carey; Aaron Chapman; Michael Cook; Ellen Dahl; Lucas Davidson; Jo Duck; Lyle Duncan; Kath Egan; Ash Garwood; Amos Gebhardt; Douglas Lance Gibson; Guy Grabowsky; Tim Gregory; Yvette Hamilton; Petrina Hicks; Naomi Hobson; Samuel Hodge; Eliza Hutchison; The Huxleys; Katrin Koenning; Paula Mahoney; Ali McCann; Mia Mala McDonald; Phuong Ngo; Selina Ou; Hiromi Tango; Angela Tiatia; wani toaishara; Shan Turner-Carroll; Skye Wagner; Carl Warner; Kai Wasikowski; Lydia Wegner; Jemima Wyman.  

The Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award is currently open to view at HOTA Gallery, Australia’s largest gallery outside a capital city, until 8 January 2023

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