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Gender issues highlighted at 2017 Absa L'Atelier Competition
Posted on September 13, 2017.

Maral Bolouri, Mothers and Others, Installation, 153 x 123 x 123cm

Maral Bolouri of Kenya was awarded the overall 2017 Absa L'Atelier prize for Mothers and Others, a multi-sensory, interactive installation that investigates representations of women in African oral traditions.

Bolouri, a previous 2015 L'Atelier Top 100 finalist, receives a six-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, return airfare, R225 000 cash for the residency and a solo exhibition at the Absa Gallery.

Maral Bolouri, Mothers and Others (detail), Installation, 153 x 123 x 123cm

Her work is informed by issues of gender and human rights and for this piece, she researched African proverbs and found that a majority of them are misogynist and objectify women, represented in handmade iron cowbells hanging from a giant stool. She also invites the audience to add their own voice to the artwork by writing their own proverbs on a blank board and disrupt the negative narrative.

Banele Khoza, Note Making, Digital drawings printed with an inkjet printer, 172 x 153 cm, Multiple parts

Banele Khoza was awarded the Gerard Sekoto Award for his piece Note Making, which comprises a series of his characteristic digital drawings showcasing vulnerable and intimate thoughts and feelings. The winning work explores what it is to be a male in South Africa and looks at male nudity and vulnerability which is not vastly portrayed in popular media.

Khoza receives a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, return airfare, stipend and a travelling exhibition in South Africa upon return.

Banele Khoza
Note Making (detail), Digital drawings printed with an inkjet printer, 172 x 153 cm, Multiple parts

Marking its 32nd year in 2017, the Absa L'Atelier competition was once again open to young and emerging artists from 10 African countries, namely South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles and Mozambique in association with sponsors Absa and South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA).



Priscilla Kennedy of Ghana picked up the first Merit Award for her piece Untitled 2016, which explores social stereotypes of women as tools of seduction.

South African Wilhelmina Nell was awarded the second Merit Award for her piece No Evidence of a Struggle featuring bronze cast uneaten sandwich crusts in a wood lunchbox and represents Nell's interpretation of sloth; the mark of a person unwilling to be proactive in their own personal success.

Manyatsa Monyamane scooped the third Merit Award for her photographic work Koko Meikie, which attempts to capture the timeless beauty and style of the South African youth of the 70s, and illustrate how these people define themselves today, 50 years later.

Bright Ackwerh (Ghana); Ciara Struwig (South Africa); Dale Lawrence (South Africa); Elias Njora (Kenya); and Oliver Mayhew (South Africa) closed out this year's Top 10 finalists.

View the Top 10 works here.

The Top 100 best artworks from the 2017 Absa L'Atelier at the official L'Atelier exhibition runs from 14 September - 27 October 2017 at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg. Entries for the 2018 edition of the Absa L’Atelier competition open on 1 February 2018.

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