2023 Kennedy Prize Winner tells the story of Refugee Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar

Kennedy-Prize-Sid-Pattni-Portrait-of-Moz-The-Story-of-UsIndian Australian visual artist Sid Pattni has been awarded the 2023 Kennedy Prize with a thought-provoking portrait of Kurdish refugee, Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar, who fled war and was held in detention at Manus Island for over six years.

The celebrated national visual arts competition, which called for entries under the theme of ‘Beauty’ – has attracted a record-breaking number of entries this year from Australia’s finest visual artists for the $25,000 prize.

West Australian based artist Sid Pattni created the award-winning portrait – Portrait of Moz – using oil, synthetic polymer and cotton thread on canvas for his first solo exhibition, The Story of Us, which explores the stories of refugees and asylum seeker communities in Australia.

“As a painter, I spend most of my time in solitude, spending hour upon hour in front of a canvas, mixing colours, applying paint, creating worlds,” said Pattni. Along that process, I sometimes find myself riddled with doubt or questioning if the work really has any presence.

“So, to get the objective, external validation of winning a prestigious award like the Kennedy Prize, just gives me that reassurance that I’m on the right track,” he said.

The work, the first major art prize for Pattni, is the fifth portrait in his The Story of Us series which was captured by Pattni during his volunteer work at the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees. As part of the process Pattni sat with refugees and interviewed them about their journey to Australia.

“The artwork was about telling the story of Mostafa in a manner that honoured his selfhood. He is an extraordinary individual that has been through extraordinary circumstances. I found beauty in his resilience and wanted to create an artwork that told his story,” said Pattni.

Sid Pattni is an Indian-Australian artist who was born in London, raised in Kenya and currently resides in Western Australia. Working primarily in painting and embroidery, his studio practice seeks to depict figures and objects that tell interesting stories about a specific time and place.

Pattni is primarily focused on painting and embroidery; his studio practice seeks to depict figures and objects that tell interesting stories about a specific time and place. Pattni’s high profile portrait subjects also include public figures such as Adam Liaw, Rowi Singh and Abbie Chatfield.

According to Kennedy Prize Coordinator Mark Kennedy, Pattni’s work is testament to the quality of submissions for the 2023 prize which is now in its tenth year.

“As the Kennedy Prize marks its tenth year, we applaud all the artists who have taken part over the last decade. Their efforts and commitment to the visual arts is a great tribute to the legacy of my dear father, Robert,” said Mr Kennedy.

The Kennedy Prize exhibition launch also saw the announcement of the winner of the inaugural Nyland Photography Award which awarded South Australian photographer Margaret Ambridge with a $5,000 prize for her captivating portrait ALICE. The prize is named after the Honourable Margaret Nyland who is a committee member of the Kennedy Arts Foundation.

The 50 finalists, including Pattni’s winning artwork, are on display at the Kennedy Prize Exhibition in the Royal South Australian Society of the Arts at the State Library (North Terrace, Adelaide) until Sunday 17 September. For more information and to view the list of finalists, visit: www.kennedyprize.com.au for details.

Image: Sid Pattni, Portrait of Moz, from the series, The Story of Us (supplied)