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Photographic work wins at 2016 Barclays L'Atelier Competition

Posted on July 14, 2016.

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

Photographer Nourhan Refaat of Egypt tops the 2016 Barclays L'Atelier competition with her work July Tale, a photographic series that deals with relationships and how we interact in today's 'disconnected' digital age. 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.

This year, the competition was expanded to include 10 African countries in addition to South Africa, effectively extending the competition into a Pan-African competition. The artworks included in the Top 100 offer viewers an insight into the various narratives from each particular region across the continent. The adjudicators emphasised that this year was one of the most strongly contested editions of the annual contemporary art competition.

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 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 winning photography and mask series is composed of three portraits depicting figures wearing knited masks. The figures are depicted mute and blind. Refaat explores the complexity of relationships in today's age where people are often disconnected from each other. She makes use of the knitting process to show that relationships take work. Refaat receives the main prize of R225 000; a six-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris; as well as a solo exhibition at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg.

Matete Motubatse (South Africa), Moya, Video

Gerard Sekoto Award winner Matete Motubatse's video Moya depicts his character attempting 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 loosely mean 'breath', 'air', 'spirit' and/or 'soul'. The film symbolises 'ntwa ya moya'; that is, an intense celestial battle of non-physical forces. Motubatse receives a three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, including return airfare, stipend and a travelling solo exhibition throughout South Africa

The three merit awards went to Onyis Martin of Kenya for his mixed media piece Does it matter who is speaking? winning a Bag Factory residency in Johannesburg; Donald Wasswa of Uganda for his work Maali Ya Muswangali winning a Sylt residency; and, South African Lebo Rasenyalo wins a Ampersand Foundation residency for her video O mogeng lebo, Nomo. The rest of the 2016 Barclays L’Atelier top ten finalists includes Jackie Karuti of Kenya; South Africans Thandiwe Msebenzi, Sethembile Msezane, Asemahle Ntlonti, and Muntu Vilakazi.

This year's competition saw an emphasis on works with the strongest conceptual framework and fresh artistic engagement. The winning works selected offers the audience a view into the diverse aesthetic throughout the African continent.

The Top 100 exhibition will be exhibited at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg from 14 July - 26 August 2016. It can also be viewed in the competition's first-ever virtual exhibition hosted on

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