Wi Di Mimba Wi 2024

Portrait of Setareh Shahbazi by Ava Krebs
Portrait of Setareh Shahbazi by Ava Krebs

Setareh Shahbazi is the 2024 recipient of the Wi Di Mimba Wi Prize. AKB Stiftung and SAVVY Contemporary have teamed up in 2021 to establish this commission grant for artists of colour based in Germany.

SETAREH SHAHBAZIwas born in Teheran in 1978. She studied Scenography and Media Arts at the State Academy for Art and Design in Karlsruhe and spent the following ten years living and working between Beirut, Tehran, Cairo and Berlin, where she has been based since 2013. Her work draws inspiration from visual objects that surround her, from old family photographs to newspaper clippings, feeding into her conceptual installations, multi-coloured prints, and digitally manipulated photomontages. Through her artistic practice, Shahbazi offers reconstructed narratives simultaneously provided by her personal stories and the forgotten items that she comes across. Her works have been displayed in exhibitions in Iran, Lebanon, Germany, Italy, and France. Since 2020, she is also artistic co-director of KHF – Künstlerhof Frohnau, an artist-run studio village situated in woods on the periphery of Berlin.

Further information on the artist’s website.

I am immensely grateful for this precious opportunity to work with the amazing team of SAVVY Contemporary and the many people that are needed to shift languages, perceptions and visibilities. In the specific context of Germany in 2024, I would like to use the opportunity this prize offers me and borrow the tongues, eyes and ears of friends and collaborators. Together, we share the gift of carrying multiple knowledges and have the power to challenge the German language by proposing artistic and poetic extensions towards twisting the power dynamics of the „Deutschungshoheit“: to borrow a striking word, beautifully performed by singer and activist Malonda, pointing out the conflation of „Deutsch“ ("German") and „Deutungshoheit“ ("interpretative sovereignty“).

I wish to express my gratitude for the curiosity and trust of the AKB Stiftung and the jury of the Wi Di Mimba Wi Prize.


Setareh Shahbazi. Shiraz, 2023 & With A Certain Sensatio n, 2023. Pigment prints, framed, 130 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist.
Setareh Shahbazi. Shiraz, 2023 & With A Certain Sensatio n, 2023. Pigment prints, framed, 130 x 100 cm, Courtesy the artist.

Setareh Shahbazi was selected by a jury of five. Marie Helene Pereira (curator and cultural practitioner), Zdenka Badovinac (curator and writer), Jean-Ulrick Désert (artist and inaugural Wi Di Mimba Wi recipient), together with Mirjami Schuppert (curator and prize coordinator for AKB Stiftung), and Renan Laru-an (SAVVY Contemporary) write about their joined decision:

Setareh Shahbazi has convinced the jury with her body of work, which reveals strong aesthetics and artistic personality. The position she takes towards contemporary societies and their crises are clearly recognisable in her individual artistic endeavor as well as various collaborations and research in which she has engaged.

Her work has an aesthetic anchor that has been developed in an insightful manner over a long period of time. The comfort she has established in her processes has revealed  freedom, honesty and maturity with regards to her working methods.

Setareh Shahbazi’s practice avoids the mere representation of identity yet honors the possible meanings of personal and family narratives, inviting the viewers into a dialogue with the work – thus opening up to alternative interpretations.

Through multiple belonging and temporalities, the works born in particular (cultural) contexts and specific moments in time remain in close dialogue with the present time. The broken narratives that present themselves through beautiful and formal-appearing works capture a collective experience that comes together with larger histories of the existing non-Western in the Western context.

In Setareh Shahbazi’s work, the possibility of a moment where one could enter into a new territory constructed on her conceptual and aesthetic foundation is highly tangible; she invites the viewer to jump into her narration with comfort and assurance. Her artistic work has reached a point where the articulation of hope and enlightenment overcome the ones of oppression and discrimination. We believe that this prize will offer the comfort of time and research that will allow her to realize the next chapter of her practice. Setareh Shahbazi has managed to create several vectors in her work and has the possibility to transgress the limitations of exhibition making and engage into transformed formats which will allow her creativity and political positions to translate into strong art-making.

The jury humbly recognized the significant potential of Setareh Shahbazi’s artistic practice and is looking forward to witnessing how the Wi Di Mimba Wi Prize will allow her to think and work in an even more experimental and open-ended way.

Setareh Shahbazi. From the series Spectral Days (#11) and Spectral Days (#15), 2013 C-print, framed dimensions 85 x 60 cm.
Setareh Shahbazi. From the series Spectral Days (#11) and Spectral Days (#15), 2013 C-print, framed dimensions 85 x 60 cm.

In addition to celebrating and rewarding an artist’s outstanding work, this grant is an invitation to relate, to collaborate and to create together – according to the philosophies and practices lived by SAVVY Contemporary. Our intent with this initiative is to build a strong relationship and support for artists of colour towards a richer and more diverse cultural landscape.

Thanks to the generous support of the AKB Stiftung, the selected artist receives a one year working grant of 30.000 EUR, as well as funds to support the creation of a new artwork and curatorial support. It is planned that the new  piece or body of work will be exhibited at SAVVY Contemporary and other venues.

The grant is open to artists of colour based in Germany of all backgrounds, media, ages, stages of career. Candidates were nominated by a board of advisors and selected by a five-member jury. This programme is a long-term engagement to build sustainable support structures in the art world. The grant is awarded every two years.

The AKB Stiftung is a foundation based in Einbeck, Germany. Established by Carl-Ernst Büchting in 1998.

SAVVY Contemporary is an artistic organisation, discursive platform, place for good talks, foods and drinks – a space for conviviality and cultural plurilog.

SAVVY Contemporary’s artistic director Renan Laru-an expresses:
I am delighted to continue this partnership with the AKB Foundation in highlighting the practice and intelligence of artists who have been underrepresented in Germany. The Prize affirms our commitment at SAVVY Contemporary to work collaboratively and consistently with diverse communities and institutions to address some of the urgent inequities in our art ecology.

Michael Büchting, Chairman of AKB Stiftung:
The partnership of the AKB foundation and SAVVY Contemporary provides an opportunity to connect to and collaborate with artists, curators and producers from various backgrounds and living experiences. During the first edition of the prize we have witnessed the importance of building support systems that allow artists of colour to focus on the practice of their work and at the same time to assist in creating connections and gaining visibility for their work. This reflects an important part of the AKB foundation’s mission to support art and to contribute to help alter the structures of underrespresentaion and marginalisation within the field of art.