The Abraaj Group and the Royal College of Art announced five new Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholars for the 2016/17 academic year.
Launched in 2014, the Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholarship is the largest-ever international scholarship programme in the postgraduate creative sector, supporting five outstanding RCA applicants across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Turkey every year.
The mission of the Abraaj scholarship programme is to create a community of creative leaders, who share the values, integrity, and social responsibility upheld by Abraaj and the RCA. The students are expected to use the transformative powers of their RCA education to impact positively on life in their home countries. Each student will be enrolled full-time in a two-year Master of Arts programme at the RCA.
This year’s scholars were selected by an international panel, including contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, Tim Brown, CEO IDEO, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of the Department of Architecture and Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Dame Marjorie Scardino, Twitter’s first female Executive Board member.
Fierce competition from a host of talented candidates, the winners impressed judges with their talent, commitment, and social awareness. The next cohort of Abraaj RCA Innovation Scholars:
Larry Amponsah, Ghana
‘Art is the path I have chosen, that is what I passionately love, that is the only space that helps me to stand against racial issues, religious issues, and economic problems. In short, it is the only space in which I can rewrite history, help myself and above all help others.’Amposah is an assistant curator at Kuenyehia, a new space of contemporary art in Ghana, which gives him the opportunity to meet with other young Ghanaian artists and develop vital skills in curation and gallery management.
Amposah wants to change the perception of art and artists in Ghana, and in Africa as a whole and encourage increased patronage for the arts. He would like to use the benefits of his RCA education to inspire other African artists and develop spaces for art practice and exploration in his home community.
Thanyawan Eamsonthi, Service Design, Thailand
Thanyawan Eamsonthi, Service Design
‘I would like to focus on the challenges faced by the marginalized group of people who have always been neglected by the government and society’Thanyawan has worked in the social enterprise sector in her native Thailand for the last three years, bringing important social issues to the attention of the general population and advocating change.
Thanyawan found that many of the communications she helped launch only served to awareness of an issue – they did not impact any measurable change in larger society. She came to believe that a more cohesive and carefully planned strategy was called for in order to deliver true social innovation. By studying Service Design at the RCA, Thanyawan hopes to develop the experience and skills necessary to design systematic and efficient approaches to public policy that truly engage with the needs of the Thai people.
Sadhvi Jawa, Textiles, India
Sadhvi Jawa, Textiles
‘When I look back, I remember always working with a material – stitching clothes from waste fabric for my dolls, collecting pebbles to play vernacular games, stitching leaves together with twigs to make vessels and play house-house, I understood the world by engaging in such imitations.’
Growing up in Panipat, Haryana — a small northern town that is the largest textile exporter in India – deeply influenced Sadhvi’s early understanding of textiles as purely practical items. Her attitude toward her craft matured over time, and she now uses material as engagement tool in her outreach projects with urban-poor communities and, most recently, young children with autism. Sadhvi believes that interacting with textiles can help individuals to engage with wider social, economic and political issues and to find their own creative voice.
Saeed Al Madani, Printmaking, United Arab Emirates
Saeed Al Madani, Printmaking
‘This is what I am and how I see myself; a person who seeks innovation through experimentation and application of different techniques, ideas and cultural references.’Saaed is a self-taught mixed-media artist from the United Arab Emirates. He hopes that studying Printmaking at the RCA will enable him to develop his formal understanding of artistic taste and technique.
Saeed’s approach to his work is firmly rooted in his home culture; he wishes to focus on the symbolic language in printmaking related to expression of UAE identity, culture and tradition, and explore what it means to be living in a rapidly developing country heading toward cultural homogenization at a faster pace than many other developing nations. He is particularly interested in developing his current skillset in Printmaking, experimenting with combining the mechanical and the hand-made to create unique, sensorial works.
Hazel Scrimgeour, Service Design, South Africa
Hazel Scrimgeour, Service Design
‘Education leads to entrepreneurship, work opportunities, creating solutions and having respect and empathy towards one another.’Hazel believes that design thinkers will be the people to introduce creative new solutions to the current problems facing South Africa, using technology and innovation to address issues affecting the provision of basic public services.
Ultimately, Hazel aims to introduce Service Design to the South African educational system. She believes that African designers are best placed to solve African problems, and improve the interactions between public service providers and the African people. She is excited to explore the ways in which Service Design can improve delivery of basic services such as transport, education and health, and the potential relationships that could be developed between South Africa and the RCA.