For thousands of artists across Africa whose creativity is their livelihood, art gives life. Now, the continent’s flagship visual arts competition for emerging artists, Absa L’Atelier, is asking these artists to Give art life as it calls for entries into this year’s contest.

This inspiring theme of the 2018 competition reflects the idea that the prestigious Absa L’Atelier gives African contemporary art, and the talent behind it, a platform to thrive. 

This has been augmented even further this year with the competition being opened up to two more African countries, namely Nigeria and Namibia. This brings to 12 the number of countries participating in the competition. The other countries include South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles and Mozambique, and all professional and self-taught emerging artists aged 21 to 35 from these countries are invited to enter.

The Absa L’Atelier art competition enters its 33rd year in 2018, marking another fruitful year of collaboration between primary sponsors Absa and South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA). Together, these partners aim to help further winners’ careers by providing them with unparalleled
industry opportunities. 

For the main and Gerard Sekoto award winners this includes a six-month and three-month art residency, respectively, at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris. The Gerard Sekoto Award is made possible through a partnership between Absa, SANAVA, the Alliance Francaise of Southern Africa, the Institut Français Afrique du Sud and the French Embassy in South Africa. While the main prize also features a cash prize of R330 000 and is open to all entrants, the Gerard Sekoto Award is reserved for the most promising South African artist who has previously entered the L’Atelier.

Similarly, the first Merit Award prize comprises a three-month art residency at the Bag Factory in South Africa; the second Merit Award, a two-month art residency at the Sylt Foundation, on the island of Sylt in Germany, and the third Merit Award, a one-month art residency with the Ampersand Foundation in New York, USA. All entrants are eligible for the Merit Award prizes.

All Top 10 finalists in the competition are also placed on a two-day art professionalism course to assist them in managing their careers – a vital aspect in helping young artists turn their talent into profitable businesses.

Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa Art and Museum Curator, says the competition has played a significant role in the careers of many influential visual artists from across the African continent, particularly the winners, who have benefited from the exposure afforded to them through the residencies.

“Since extending the competition to other African countries, the response from young, up-and-coming artists has been incredible. This bears testament to the fact that emerging artists realise the immense value L’Atelier adds to their careers. It has been very encouraging to see Africa’s young artists making the most of the opportunities that are being created to support and help grow their careers. It’s important not only that artists take advantage of these opportunities, but that they put their best works forward when doing it,” says Bayliss.

To enter the 2018 competition, artists simply need to visit the L’Atelier website at, click on the ‘enter L’Atelier 2018’ button, and complete the required information. Registration opens on 1 February 2018 and closes at the end of  April 2018.

Artists who have previously entered the competition need to register once again if they wish to enter in 2018.

Art work used with kind permission Banele Khoza, 2017 L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Winner.