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The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative sees luminaries from across the artistic world like Bernardine Evaristo (left) team up with a new generation of talent like Ayesha Harruna Attah (right) for two years of creative collaborations. Photo: Rolex/Audoin Desforges

POST EDIT: Rolex mentorship scheme pairs creatives like Jia Zhangke, Dianne Reeves with protégés like Filipino filmmaker, Korean singer

  • Under the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, creatives are supported to transmit their craft and artistic knowledge to emerging talent in their fields
  • The 2023-2024 mentors include Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke, mentoring Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel, writer Bernardine Evaristo and singer Dianne Reeves

For two decades, luxury watchmaker Rolex has been supporting the transmission of artistic knowledge and craft with its Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Since the mentorship programme was established in 2002, it has paired 63 renowned artists from different fields with 63 emerging talents across the globe, allowing a new generation of artists to engage in creative collaboration with their mentors.

In September, a new cycle of mentors and protégés was announced for 2023-2024 during a celebration for the current programme, held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in New York, as part of the Rolex Arts Weekend.

Five up-and-coming artists from around the world have been paired with a respective mentor, all distinguished artists who collectively represent a range of artistic fields.

Visual arts mentor El Anatsui and protégée Bronwyn Katz. Photo: Rolex/Tomas Bertelsen

Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, who specialises in visual arts, will be mentoring South African Bronwyn Katz.

Anatsui, best known for his bottle-top installations made with recycled aluminium pieces, helped establish Africa’s presence in the global art world. His works encompass a range of mediums, including sculpture, textiles and painting, and he often uses found materials such as wood, clay, stone and metal in his work.
Carrie Mae Weems (left) with her protégée Camila Rodríguez Triana. Photo: Rolex/Arnaud Montagard

His protégé, Katz, also creates sculptures and installations with natural and salvaged materials, including iron ore, bed springs and foam mattresses. Additionally, Katz works with performance and video art, culminating in a body of work that led her to receive Africa’s First National Bank Art Prize, in 2019.

The artist has also been featured at the 2022 Venice Biennale and in a solo exhibition at the White Cube Gallery in London in 2021.
Jia Zhangke, a prominent figure among the post-1990 “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers, is another Rolex mentor. Among his many works, he is known for Still Life (2006), a critically acclaimed film that won the Golden Lion at that year’s Venice Film Festival, as well as a trilogy based on his hometown of Shanxi released during the early years of his career.
Rafael Manuel was awarded the Silver Bear Jury Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival for his short film Filipiñana. Photo: courtesy of Jia Zhangke

He has chosen to mentor Filipino filmmaker Rafael Manuel, who was awarded the Silver Bear Jury Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival for his short film Filipiñana.

From the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Manuel has also received three awards: the Prince Claus Seed Award for Development and Culture, a Script and Development grant from the Hubert Bals Fund and the Ani ng Dangal (“Harvest of Honours”).

The filmmaker, who splits his time between Amsterdam, London and Manila, is currently working on a feature-length film based on Filipiñana and another movie called Patrimonio.

Jia Zhangke is a prominent figure among the post-1990 “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers. Photo: courtesy of Rafael Manuel

American jazz singer Dianne Reeves will be mentoring South Korean singer and composer Song Yi Jeon. Reeves, a five-time Grammy Award winner, was the first Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and was named a Jazz Master in 2018 by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honour given to jazz artists by the United States.

Her protégée, Song, is also a jazz singer, known for her hypnotic voice, which has been likened to a wordless instrument.

She has studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, at the Basel Academy of Music, in Switzerland, and at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston, in the US, where she was the inaugural Quincy Jones CJ&E fellow and recipient of the Billboard Endowed Award. In 2018, she released “Movement of Lives”, her first full-length album.

Music mentor Dianne Reeves (left) and protégée Song Yi Jeon. Photo: Rolex/Bart Michiels

From literature, Senegal-based Ghanaian writer Ayesha Harruna Attah will be mentored by British author Bernardine Evaristo.

Attah has to date published five novels – Harmattan Rain (2009), Saturday’s Shadows (2015), The Hundred Wells of Salaga (2018), The Deep Blue Between (2020) and Zainab Takes New York (2022) – that challenge preconceptions about African social norms through historical fiction. She was a finalist in the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.

Evaristo, her mentor, has written poetry, short fiction, essays and drama, and has penned 10 books exploring the African diaspora. When her novel Girl, Woman, Other won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2019, Evaristo became the first black woman and black British author to receive the award.

She also holds the position of president of the Royal Society of Literature, becoming the first writer of colour to do so in 200 years.

Mentor Anne Lacaton (left) and Arine Aprahamian. Photo: Rolex/Audoin Desforges

And finally, from architecture, Anne Lacaton has chosen to mentor Lebanese-Armenian Arine Aprahamian.

Known for her emphasis on sustainability, Lacaton’s designs have been recognised internationally, and she and her partner, Jean-Philippe Vassal, were jointly awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2021. Having established Lacaton & Vassal in 1987, the French duo went on to design numerous cultural and academic institutions, public spaces and private and social housing projects in Europe.

Similarly, Lacaton’s protégé, Aprahamian, also advocates for sustainability and innovation in architecture. Together with partner Adrian Müller, Aprahamian founded the architecture and design studio Müller Aprahamian in 2018.

Past protégée Agustina San Martín and her mentor, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Photo: Rolex/Arnaud Montagard

Since then, the studio has worked on projects and proposals in Beirut in Lebanon, London and Yerevan in Armenia, and they also have launched an in-house research and development project that partners with local industries to examine the traditional use of clay and develop domestic alternatives for architectural materials.

With the new cycle of the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, Rolex continues to demonstrate its long-term commitment to perpetuating artistic heritage and supporting emerging artists.

The protégés join a global artistic community, and their relationships and creative collaborations with their mentors over the next two years are set to make an invaluable contribution to the arts.

This article is presented in collaboration with Rolex.