The Art of Mentoring: The Rolex Arts Festival

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 The Art of Mentoring: The Rolex Arts Festival
Copyright euronews
By Katharina Rabillon
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Since its inception, this remarkable mentoring initiative has cultivated an extensive community of artists, cutting across generations, cultures, and disciplines worldwide

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative has been the cornerstone of Rolex's commitment to the arts for over two decades.

Over 1,350 young professional artists from 120 countries have been nominated, bringing them into the limelight of experts in their respective fields. This has led to the nomination and selection of protégé finalists by 300 influential figures in the arts and 145 major artists and creative leaders serving as advisors. 

To date, 63 artists have played the role of mentors to the same number of protégés hailing from 41 different countries. This burgeoning global creative community is seen by Rolex as one of the most significant achievements of the programme.

Protégés Khoudia Touré (left) and Pauchi Sasaki (right) in Athens for the Rolex Arts FestivalEuronews

The Power of Mentorship

The impact of this initiative has been palpably felt in Athens, Greece. In celebration of 20 years of artistic collaboration, the city recently hosted the Rolex Arts Festival, attracting mentors, fellows, and local artists alike. This festival was a thriving hub for various performances, discussions, readings, screenings, exhibitions, and installations.

One of the highlights is the performance of "Óró", a riveting dance piece by Senegalese hip hop dancer and choreographer Khoudia Touré

Khoudia Touré (left) with mentor Crystal Pite (right)Euronews

"Óró" isn't just an artistic project; it's an ambitious social endeavor bringing together young adults from different walks of life. The performance marks a significant success for Touré in the presence of her mentor, renowned chereographer, Crystal Pite.

"It's inspiring to be here and to see all these artists from all these different disciplines and to reconnect with Khoudia and see her work and see her just ace that whole experience," said Pite

"I was really, really excited that you (Pite) could see it this way...I just wanted her to see the piece. It was very meaningful to me." said Touré.

The mutual admiration and inspiration between Pite and Touré is a testimony to the essence of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

"I wanted to experience creation through her," Pite said, reflecting on her relationship with Touré. "I think mentorship has to be a conversation. It's an exchange between two people. And the spirit of it, I think, is best when we both feel like we're going to learn something and we both have something to learn. And certainly that's been my experience with Khoudia. It's just an incredible opportunity for me to learn something."

Pauchi Sasaki's ARTEMIS: Fountain

For Peruvian Japanese artist Pauchi Sasaki, her mentorship with iconic composer Philip Glass has been an enlightening journey. Not only has she honed her artistry under Glass's guidance, but she has also gained newfound confidence in expressing her distinct artistic voice.

"I think something very beautiful about the mentorship is that you start to develop a kind of confidence in your own voice," Sasaki shares. "And that's something that really mentors help to give us that security, to look for what you want to express.”

Rolex Arts Festival
Pauchi Sasaki performing ARTEMIS: FountainRolex Arts Festival

Embracing the spirit of the Rolex Arts Festival, which seeks to foster collaboration and include local talent, Sasaki has partnered with 30 members of the acclaimed Greek choir CHÓRES. "The process was very joyful. The girls were so excited and they brought all their energy into the project. It was a whole experience that I really enjoyed," says Sasaki, reflecting on the harmonious collaboration.

Sasaki's unique contribution to the festival is a groundbreaking premiere of "ARTEMIS: Fountain", an excerpt from her multi-platform opera. Inspired by NASA's Artemis programme, a space mission slated to take the first woman to the moon's surface this decade, the opera resonates with a cosmic theme.

Impact and Influence

A shining example of the impact of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is Egyptian singer-songwriter, Dina El Wedidi. Selected as a protégé in 2012 under the mentorship of the legendary Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil, Dina exemplifies the profound influence the initiative has had on artists' careers.

Dina El Wedidi (right) with mentor Gilberto Gil (left)Euronews

Today, El Wedidi is an international star and a passionate advocate for the preservation of traditional Egyptian music. This journey from promising talent to global recognition showcases the transformative power of mentorship and the initiative's enduring impact on the global arts scene.

Mentorship & Creation

For several protégés, the collaboration with their mentors left an indelible mark on their creative journeys. Australian composer and performer Ben Frost, a Rolex Music Fellow, vividly recalls the transformative time spent under the tutelage of legendary musician and producer Brian Eno.

"My time with Brian Eno was a gift," Frost reflected. "He raised many questions for me during my mentorship. He challenged a lot of ideas, even some preconceptions that I had about myself and about music."

This challenging mentorship birthed Frost's installation piece "The Predatory Chord". Frost discussed the creation process, saying, "The birth of it is kind of in different parts. As a child, I played a lot with the piano. My favorite thing was to spread my hands as far as possible across the keyboard and build these really long suspended chords with the sustain pedal down. I took each of those notes, and rather than thinking of them as a note, I thought of them as a vector within space. I mapped that out across this field of speakers. So, you're sort of sitting inside of a chord, but the relationship between all of those harmonics is shifting. It’s constantly shifting."

The Future of the Programme

Many protégés have gone on to become mentors themselves, embodying the concept of knowledge transmission integral to the programme. American violist David Aaron Carpenter and Canadian mezzo-soprano Susan Platts are notable examples. Both have given masterclasses at the festival, passing the torch to the next generation of artists.

Dianne Reeves (left) is mentoring Song Yi Jeon (right)Euronews

The programme continues to foster inspiring relationships among artists. Grammy-winner Dianne Reeves, a new mentor in the programme, has begun mentoring Song Yi Jeon, a South Korean modern jazz singer and composer. Reeves expressed that mentorship is about imparting the knowledge she has worked hard to develop to someone else, a sentiment that embodies the spirit of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Journalist • Euronews Digital

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