In 2018, four Rolex new mentor-protégé pairs began a period of one-to-one mentoring through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a philanthropic programme that is part of Rolex’s long-standing commitment to the arts and to perpetuating excellence.
For more than 15 years, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative has aimed at assisting the transmission of artistic heritage. As such, since it was set up in 2002, the philanthropic programme has evolved to become a powerful force for developing creativity and generational exchange in the cultural world.
From the start, the Arts Initiative has attracted mentors who are acknowledged leaders in their fields. These artistic giants have taken under their collective wing an impressive group of young artists who needed support and exposure to move to the next level.
The mentors and protégés for 2018–2019 are Sir David Adjaye and Mariam Kamara (architecture); Colm Tóibín and Colin Barrett (literature); Zakir Hussain and Marcus Gilmore (music); and Crystal Pite and Khoudia Touré (dance).
This year’s four pairings, who will collaborate for up to two years, are joining a cultural family. Jazz musician and drummer Marcus Gilmore, protégé of percussionist Zakir Hussain, is intrigued by this aspect of the programme and its history. “It’s a pretty vast spectrum of artists, visual artists, musicians, architects and writers. With all of these people I have respect for, it seemed like a beautiful community to be part of.”
Literature, 2018 - 2019
Colin Barrett and his mentor, the novelist Colm Tóibín, are both Irish. Tóibín had admired Barrett’s short story collection, Young Skins, before signing up to the programme. “One of the main things I need to do is to make clear to him that his talent is really serious. He needs to be made to feel that what he is doing is right, and just to keep that show on the road,” he says.
The two are in frequent contact, discussing writing over dinners and in more formal contexts. Barrett wants the focus of the mentorship to be the completion of his first novel. “You can’t teach somebody how to write,” says Tóibín. “But when you are starting, and you are navigating the whole business of editors, agents, how to spend your time, how to rewrite, what to leave out, it’s useful to have someone you can talk to about it who will recognize the problem. I will have had the problem. I will know what he is talking about.”
Music, 2018 - 2019
Music mentor Zakir Hussain is a tabla player who was born in Mumbai, while his protégé is a jazz drummer born in New York. Despite the difference in their upbringing, they share in common that they come from musical families. Hussain was taught by his father; Gilmore’s grandfather Roy Haynes, one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time, taught him to play.
“It’s amazing to have that kind of legend watching over you,” says Hussain. “There will be something for me to learn from that, some similarities that will appear between the transmission that he got from his grandfather and I got from my father.”
Gilmore first saw Hussain when he was working at Lines Ballet in San Francisco, where he had written a 45-minute score, and then again when he began to compose a new piece for the Kronos Quartet. Hussain hopes, in particular, to encourage Gilmore in his desire to write music with the rhythmic element as the lead part of the score.
This is something that is very much on Gilmore’s mind. “I think artistically the only way for me to get to where I need to get is to be able to express my art in an uncompromising way,” he says.
Architecture, 2018 - 2019
Architecture protégée Mariam Kamara has already had her working practice transformed by her mentor, the Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye. “One of my first discussions with Sir David was asking him how he finds the time to juggle all of his projects with all of the teams around the world and make sure that the creativity still comes through… He gave me advice that allowed me to draft an entire road map of how to restructure my firm,” she explains. “I went back to my team in Niger and changed everything! It has allowed me to free up so much time for actual design work.”
Kamara works principally in Niger although she lives and teaches in the United States. She and Adjaye have agreed to work together to create a public or cultural project in the capital city of Niamey.
“I think it will stimulate both of us,” says Adjaye. “I am fascinated by Niger and am looking forward to crafting something that becomes an exploration for both of us. I have to be excited about it as much as she does.”
Dance, 2018 - 2019
Dance mentor Crystal Pite is expanding her own vision as she works with her protégée Khoudia Touré, a dance-maker from Senegal, who has a background in urban street dance.
“I’ve never been to Africa,” says Pite. “It’s an opportunity to connect to a community and a culture of people that normally I would never have a chance to meet.
“And the way Khoudia is creating and producing her own work, and connecting to her own community are really inspiring to me. She has developed some amazing programmes for under-served youth, giving them opportunities to come together and to dance, create and connect. A chance to learn and heal. In my own practice this is something I crave. This is the thing I hope to learn from her.”
Touré has been with Pite in Zurich, The Hague, Paris and, most recently, Vancouver where she witnessed Pite create a work with her own company Kidd Pivot. She is learning new techniques, and the experience has already opened her eyes to different possibilities. “It unlocks a lot of questions and a lot of confidence in me. She inspires me to improve continuously, to enlarge my knowledge and my vision and to develop with a spirit of hard work, passion and generosity.”