The new initiative of the Ministry of Arts and Culture to recognize the contribution of local
artists in different artistic fields is undoubtedly, very commendable. Although this action has been very well received by the majority of artists, there appear to be numerous flaws in the first edition of this award.
To name but a few, the ceremony itself was unfortunately poorly conceptualised and organised. From what we saw on television, it looked more like a street market. A good number of the audience seemed completely disinterested in the different speeches and kept moving around at their leisure. On the one hand, many guests with no direct connection to the arts, were graciously welcomed, on the other hand, many art practitioners who are at the forefront of the local art scene have simply not been invited.
As this first edition was held in the context of the 50th anniversary of our independence, the organisers missed a golden opportunity to pay tribute to those who have greatly contributed to shaping our cultural landscape, but who unfortunately are not among us today. There could have been a special posthumous mention to at least three to five artists in each category. Ti Frère, Malcolm De Chazal, Sona Nayan, Marcel Cabon, Kaya, Marcel Lagesse, José Thérèse, Serge Constantin, Sanedhip Bhimjee, Hervé Masson, Michel Legris and Bam Cuttayen, could have been among others. Not necessarily trophies or cash prizes for them, but simply mentioning their names would have had immense symbolic meaning for their families and for the artist community.
(By the way the design of the trophy itself is also very questionable!).
But the most blatant gaffe is the great injustice towards an artist who has a very deep imprint in the visual arts scene of our country; Moorthy Nagalingum. It would be good to know on which set of criteria the selections were made and on the basis of what type of calculation the nominees were ridiculously classified 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as if it was a race they ran! We really hope that ethnicity was not one of the criteria!
Regarding the choice in the Visual Arts section, we strongly believe that the jury did not do its job properly. Without wishing to cast doubt on the solid reputation and contribution of our friend Vaco Baissac, we are of the opinion that the members of the jury have erroneously disregarded Moorthy Nagalingum’s rich professional career, his profound style and his outstanding contribution to the visual arts.
He was the soul of the Department of Fine Arts set up by the MGI in the late 1970s for the democratization of the arts in postcolonial Mauritius. Most of the new generation of artists will not fail to recall the enormous contribution of this great pedagogue and artist.
A man of vision, the mastermind behind the Salon de Mai which, since 1976, is the only annual national art show featuring the works of so many local artists working in different media. He made the Salon de Mai not only an exchange platform for artists, but also a meeting place for art lovers; thus opening the doors to the public and making art accessible to a wider audience. He has inspired many generations and he could be considered the first Mauritian artist to have decolonised art in Mauritius. It seems almost insulting to have nominated him and then to rank him second. It would have been much better not to nominate him at all. This first award ceremony was an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the unique contribution of this artist, but unfortunately he was officially dishonoured instead.
Now that the ball is gone, not much can be done. However, we hope that our remarks will be addressed constructively and that the next edition of the National Award will endeavour towards more professionalism and, hopefully, we will finally reach « Sime Lalimier ».