Egypt tops 2016 Barclays L’Atelier competition, SA in top 10


With a fresh pool of young African artists significantly raising previous benchmarks, the adjudicators are proud to announce the winners in one of the most strongly contested editions of the Barclays L’Atelier annual contemporary art competition.

Nourhan Refaat of Egypt has claimed top spot and the main prize of R225 000. She also wins a six-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris for her photographic work July Tale.

South African Matete Motubatse from Cape Town has won the Gerard Sekoto Award and a three months’ residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts for his video Moya.

The three merit awards go to Onyis Martin of Kenya (Bag Factory residency) for his mixed media piece Does it matter who is speaking?; Donald Wasswa of Uganda (Kuns: Raum Foundation, Sylt, residency) for his work Maali Ya Muswangali utilising leather off-cuts in plastic bags and sisal threads; and, South African Lebo Rasenyalo of Johannesburg (Ampersand Foundation residency) for her video O mogeng lebo, Nomo.

Dr Paul Bayliss, Barclays Art and Museum Curator, says Barclays L’Atelier is now a truly continental art competition, as reflected in the diversity of entries received from participating African countries.

“Barclays L’Atelier is renowned for delivering fresh, compelling insights from South Africa’s hottest young talent. But this year, with the competition being expanded to include 10 African countries in addition to South Africa, it effectively extended the continental conversation about art, delivering not only great diversity in aesthetic, but also dominant narratives from particular regions across the continent. The competition this year was extremely robust and our winners are most deserving of their accolades. The winning works reflect the strongest conceptual framework,” adds Bayliss.

Refaat’s July Tale uses photos and masks to create three portraits. Each portrait depicts the complexity of a relationship; the attachment of two souls in spite of being blind and silent about their mutual issues.

In Motubatse’s video Moya, his character attempts to blow a physical obstacle – a black plastic bag – off his head simply by using his breath. The word ‘breath’ in Sepedi translates to ‘moya’ which, in turn, can either mean ‘breath’,  ‘air’, ‘spirit’ and/or ‘soul’ – all non-physical forms. The film symbolises ‘ntwa ya moya’; that is, an intense celestial battle of non-physical forces.

 The rest of the 2016 Barclays L’Atelier top ten finalists includes Jackie Karuti of Kenya for her photographic triptych I can’t wait to see you; South African Thandiwe Msebenzi of Cape Town for her photographic work Kwazi Kubenini; South African Sethembile Msezane of Cape Town for the photographic piece Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell; South African Asemahle Ntlonti of Cape Town for the sculpture Living Sacrifice; and South African Muntu Vilakazi of Johannesburg for the photographic work Mass Therapy: 2015.

These winning works, along with the rest of the top 100 works, can be viewed in the competition’s first-ever virtual exhibition hosted on www.lateliercompetition.com

Barclays L’Atelier, held in conjunction with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), nurtures young talent and serves as a platform for young and emerging artists to make their mark in the African art arena.

Last year, for the first time in the competition’s 30-year history, participation in the event was extended beyond South Africa’s borders to include artists from Botswana, Zambia, Ghana and Kenya. This year’s competition was further extended to Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius and Seychelles.

Of particular attraction to entrants are the opportunities to attend a two-day art professionalism course in Johannesburg that will assist them in managing their art careers as viable businesses and the Barclays L’Atelier mentorship programme – two sought-after awards presented to the top 10 L’Atelier finalists.

The competition also rewards the winning visual artists with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to develop their talents abroad through art residencies among international artists. Barclays L’Atelier is therefore widely celebrated as the African art competition that has a far-reaching and sustainable impact on young artists’ careers.

“This aligns with Barclays Africa’s focus on Shared Growth which, in essence, reflects our commitment towards making a positive impact on the various communities we serve,” concludes Bayliss.

Image: The overall winner – Nourhan Refaat