Back in 2018, four of the world’s most distinguished artists − Sir David Adjaye (architecture), Zakir Hussain (music), Crystal Pite (dance) and Colm Toíbín (literature) − each chose an outstanding young talent for a period of creative exchange and personal inspiration, made possible through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a multidisciplinary philanthropic programme designed to seek out highly talented artists in the early stages of their careers and bring them together with recognised leaders in their fields for collaboration, with the aim of transmitting artistry at the highest level across the generations.

Two years later this month, over 200 renowned artists and arts leaders from South Africa and around the world gathered at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre Centre to attend the Rolex Arts Weekend, a series of talks, readings, exhibitions and performances, for the finale of the 2018−2019 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, featuring the work of the proteges with their mentors.

Rolex Mentor & Protégé Arts Initiative 2018-2019: (From left) Mentor Sir David Adjaye and protégée Mariam Kamara (architecture); protégé Colin Barrett and mentor Colm Tóibín (literature); mentor Crystal Pite and protégée Khoudia Touré (dance); mentor Zakir Hussain and protégé Marcus Gilmore (music)



The two-day celebration saw the world premiere by Senegalese protégée and urban street dance pioneer Khoudia Touré, with three members of the dance company, Compagnie La Mer Noire. The production was created following Touré’s close interaction with her mentor, Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, who introduced the dance, When the Night Comes, a piece born from hip-hop and infused with other dance styles and techniques.


Protégée Mariam Kamara, originally from Niger, who dedicates her work to designing spaces and structures that respond to the needs of people in Niger and all of Africa, together with mentor Sir David Adjaye, known for designing the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, presented their plans for a new cultural centre in Niger’s capital Niamey. The discussion, moderated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect Lesley Lokko, was followed by the official opening of the exhibition, Public Realm along the Niger River, Niamey.


Under the tutelage of mentor Colm Tóibín, fellow Irishman and protégé Colin Barrett completed his first novel, The English Brothers. An adapted extract from the book that features the two writers’ mutual fascination with questions of belonging and self-definition was performed by local actors in advance of a discussion, What Can be Said: Home and Voice, between mentor and protégé.


Music protégé Marcus Gilmore, an innovative young drummer from the United States, presented a world premiere of his composition, Pulse, commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra. The composition for ensemble and the spoken word included an exciting exchange between Gilmore and former Rolex literature protégée Tracy K. Smith. Gilmore performed the work with musicians from the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and its resident conductor Brandon Phillips. Following the performance and a solo by Gilmore, the protégé and his mentor Zakir Hussain discussed their mentoring experience.


Following the finale of the 2018-2019 cycle at the Rolex Arts Weekend in Cape Town, Rolex announced the participants for the 2020-2021 Mentors and Proteges Arts Initiative. The featured categories for the latest cycle include film, theatre, visual arts and open category. American filmmaker Spike Lee has chosen to work with Kyle Bell, 33, United States; British director Phyllida Lloyd with Whitney White, 33, United States; and American artist Carrie Mae Weems with Camila Rodríguez Triana, 34, Colombia. American composer, lyricist and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda will choose his protégé in the coming weeks.


spike lee

One of the most influential and socially conscious filmmakers of his generation, Spike Lee has produced a prodigious body of artistically daring work across a range of genres, including more than 35 feature films and documentaries. Among the culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films that he creates, directs and sometimes acts in is the recent award-winning BlackkKlansman (2018). Lee, a tenured professor and artistic director at the New York University (NYU) Graduate Film Program, has been named the President of the Jury at the 73rd Festival de Cannes.

kyle bell

Over the past five years, Native American filmmaker Kyle Bell has strived to tell the stories of his people, “stories that don’t get told or whose voices are not heard.” His work as director, director of photography and film editor has included the Heartland Emmy-winning documentary show Osiyo: Voices of the Cherokee People, as well as short documentaries such as Dig It If You Can, Defend the Sacred and The Third, which have been screened at film festivals worldwide. He was named a 2019 Sundance Indigenous Program Fellow.

Protege Kyle Bell and mentor Spike Lee


Phyllida Lloyd

Widely recognized for her broad range of bold and innovative theatre, opera, musical and film productions, British director Phyllida Lloyd has spent most of her career promoting gender equality both on and off stage. Among the highlights of her award-winning productions, she directed both the smash-hit musical and film of Mamma Mia!, as well as the Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady (2011).

whitney white

An accomplished director, musician/composer and actress, Whitney White is making her name as one of the most sought after, young theatre-makers in the United States. Artistic Associate at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, she has directed a variety of theatrical genres from the classics such as Othello to What to Send Up When it Goes Down, a play about racialised violence that was hailed by The New York Times.

Mentor Phyllida Lloyd and protegee Whitney White

visual arts:

Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems’s prolific output through image and text, film, video, performance and her many lectures, presentations and interactions with individuals across a multitude of disciplines delves into complex human experiences including sexism, racism and class. Through her career-defining The Kitchen Table Series (1989/1990), she examines various stereotypes of womanhood. Her highly acclaimed works are exhibited at major institutions throughout the world.

Camila Rodríguez Triana

Colombian filmmaker and visual artist, Camila Rodríguez Triana creates works with great emotional power that question the viewer and, like her mentor’s themes, portray intimate relationships in everyday spaces. Her art has been exhibited in solo and group shows in South America and Europe. As founder of Heka Films SAS, Triana has been responsible for several acclaimed documentary features that explore the limits between documentary and fiction.

Mentor Carrie Mae Weems and protegee Camila Rodríguez Triana

Open Category:

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award-winning composer, lyricist and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator and original star of Broadway’s Tony-winning Hamilton and In the Heights. A recipient of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation Award and the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors, his TV and film credits include Fosse/Verdon, His Dark Materials, Saturday Night Live, Moana and Mary Poppins Returns.

Mentor Lin-Manuel Miranda


(The protégé in the open category mentorship will be announced in early March.)


*Click here to follow the Rolex Mentor & Protege Arts Initiative 

written by.
KC Yap
Editor, Augustman Malaysia

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