Art news, reviews and other art information

Absa L'Atelier 2016 Top Ten Finalists

Posted on July 14, 2016.

The Top Ten Finalists of the 2016 Absa L'Atelier Award.

Nourhan Refaat (Egypt), July Tale, Photography (40 cm x 60 cm)

Photography and mask project composed of 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.

Gerard Sekoto Award
Matete Motubatse (South Africa), Moya, Video

The character in the video tries to blow away a physical obstacle – a plastic bag – off his head by using his breath.

Breath in Sepedi is translated as: 'moya'. In Sepedi, not only does moya mean breath, but also means air, spirit and/or soul.

Thus the black plastic bag represents the material form of a non-physical form that blocks the body from breathing. To use breath to contest the very object that suffocates air is equivalent to entering a spiritual, soulful battle, as air, breath, spirit and soul are nonphysical.

This film symbolises 'ntwa ya moya'; that is, an intense celestial battle of non-physical forces.

Merit Award
Onyis Martin (Kenya), Does it matter who is speaking?, Mixed media (200 x 62 cm)

The doorway is used as a metaphor to inquire into human perceptions of gender. Perception is not the passive receipt of signals but is shaped by culture, recollection, intentions and attention. The figures are letters; by extension words which assume gender perceptions that have been conditioned by the society over time. The exit and entry points are subjective and the factual observations still do not guarantee the same perspective.

Affirmative action for either gender is a form of inequality, one is limited by what they are perceived to be and gender is a kind of war. Some figures are confused, some are female, others male and even mixed seemingly asking, does it matter who is speaking?

Merit Award
Donald Wasswa (Uganda), Maali Ya Muswangali, Leather offcuts in plastic bags, sisal threads and goss threads (80 x 90 cm)

Muswangali is left with one option to leave his village and to sell his maize in the capital city of Kampala. On his way the bags with maize get lost. After a few days the bags are discovered in Mombasa, but with trash instead of his maize. Muswangali is still looking for his maze, the reason for his coming to Kampala.

Merit Award
Lebo Rasenyalo (South Africa), O mogeng lebo, Nomo, Video

The artist depicts a creator, who is the subject of the work. The exercise reveals the possibility of the product, the subject and the creator all being interchangeable. The artist is interested in the reflexive products. The artist confronts the costuming and discourse of her body. She worked with the intention to elevate the imagery to something of her own making. The conscious understanding of herself is layered with rituals of existing in urban, aspirational spaces.

The artist is interested in pursuing an authentic expression of herself contrary to her performed existence. The black person has continued to perform in order to maintain the economic relationship where the employer was historically white. The African person also further continued to suppress cultural practices to exist in the urban environment. The artist needs to define and present her actual existence. This is her pursuit.

Asemhale Ntlonti (South Africa), Living Sacrifice, Sculpture (200 x 200 x 100 cm)

This artwork investigates the life and death of the artist's grandfather, Barnabas Ntlonti and his two brothers, Mzwandile and Ntaba Zihlangene Ntlonti, using incongruous materials. Barnabas Ntlonti collapsed, he was the pastor in Ntaba. Zihlagene was hanged in The Gallows in Pretoria and Mzwandile Ntlonti drowned and his body was later found.

This installation interrogates the tragic deaths in the artist’s family. The process of making this artwork assisted the artist in understanding and making peace with the passing of these men.

Jackie Karuti (Kenya), I can't wait to see you, Photography Triptych

I Can't Wait To See You, is a series of video performances performed in five different cities that highlight themes of space, gender and identity as experienced in urban environments. Karuti uses video, performance and photography to reflect on resistance to the rigid and restrictive structures imposed upon us and the boundaries and constraints borne of these conditions. The helmet is emblematic as a protective device that creates anonymity but also imposes silence and isolation. Karuti presents the notion that life in the city for many remains a constant struggle to negotiate between these two opposing forces. Featured here are parts 1, 2 and 3 shot in Johannesburg, Amsterdam and Kampala respectively. Part 1 was documented by the late Thabiso Sekgala.

Muntu Vilakazi (South Africa), Mass Therapy: 2015, Photography (51 x 71 cm)

With the widening gap between the have and the have-nots, many have taken refuge in various religious practices for solace and hope.

Sthembile Msezane (South Africa), Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell (2015), Photography (92 x 112 cm)

There is a shift in awareness amongst South African youth. There is an attempt to transcend the legacy of apartheid and colonialism by transforming contemporary South African society from an imperialist nation to one that is rid of racial and gender abuse through public debates, music, art and so forth.

The artist has used her body in a performance to locate herself in a broader Post-colonialist thought or scholarship that aims to eradicate historic misrepresentations of blackness. In performing Chapungu – The Day Rhodes Fell, partly informed by Zimbabwean and South African history. It became imperative to challenge the hyper masculine presence of white colonial and apartheid statues that commemorate these figures through a singular narrative; while also addressing the absence of the black female body in memorialised public spaces.

Thandiwe Msebenzi (South Africa), Kwazi Kubenini, Photography (45.5 x 63.5 cm)

The artist uses her body to narrate the journey of a woman held back by society. The artwork explores the struggle of voiceless woman trying to exist in the 21st century society that continues to marginalise them. Society has taught her to oppress herself so she has come to internalise these external constrains as a woman and fights a constant inner battle as she tries to lift herself up with constant reminders of her incompetence as a female. The tittle is in Xhosa meaning "how long".

The Top 100 exhibition will be exhibited at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg from 14 July - 26 August 2016 and online at

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Audrey Anderson sketches everyday life
Rivalry to Revelry: 2019 Art Competitions in South Africa