Famed Senegalese singer, composer and producer Youssou N’Dour and rising Lebanese actor and director Maya Zbib – both former participants in the Rolex Arts Initiative – have been honoured for their work by the Praemium Imperiale, one of the world’s most distinguished awards in the arts.
Youssou N’Dour, who mentored Aurelio Martínez, from Honduras, in 2008−2009, has been selected as one of the five 2017 winners of the Praemium Imperiale, awarded for lifetime achievement. He and the other winners will each receive 15 million yen (about US$135,000).
The sole recipient in another category, the 2017 Grant for Young Artists, is Lebanon’s Zoukak Theatre Company and Cultural Association, co-founded and led by Maya Zbib. Zoukak will receive 5 million yen – about US$45,000. Zbib was mentored in the 2010−2011 Rolex Arts Initiative by theatre and opera director Peter Sellars.
Reflecting on the award, Zbib said: “Many Praemium Imperiale winners, such as Youssou N’Dour this year, have been involved with the Rolex Arts Initiative. I am happy that the Zoukak Theatre Company is being recognized. My colleagues and I are thrilled with this grant that will support our work with young people and possibly a new creation.”
The Praemium Imperiale was created in 1988 by the Japan Art Association, supported by Japan’s Imperial Family. The Laureates are selected annually in five different disciplines to honour outstanding contributions to the arts. The Grant for Young Artists was set up to encourage young people in Japan and, above all, abroad, to participate in the arts. The 2017 Praemium Imperiale awards were announced on 12 September and will be presented on 18 October in Tokyo by the Japan Art Association’s patron, Prince Hitachi.
Former and current mentors in the Rolex Arts Initiative who have won the Praemium Imperiale are: Sir David Chipperfield, Philip Glass, David Hockney, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Martin Scorsese, Álvaro Siza and Peter Zumthor.
Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, congratulated Maya Zbib and Youssou N’Dour. “We at Rolex are delighted that the work of both a mentor and a protégée has been honoured this year by the Praemium Imperiale. These awards remind us of the significant contribution that both Youssou and Maya are making to the arts and to society.”