Absa L’Atelier 2023 Awards: A Timeless Celebration of African Artistry and Legacy

Absa LAtelier

The highly anticipated Absa L’Atelier Awards 2023 unfolded on the 12th of October at the prestigious The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg. This splendid event marked a resounding celebration of African artistic brilliance, a testament to the indelible imprints left by talented individuals on the creative canvas of the continent.

The Absa L’Atelier Awards serve as a testament to the commitment to nurturing artistic expression and enriching the cultural tapestry of Africa. This creative platform, open to individuals aged 21 to 40, echoes Absa’s unwavering dedication to supporting emerging artists in their quest for self-discovery and artistic growth. Distinguished adjudicators, hailing from various corners of the globe, including South Africa, Italy, France, the USA, Ghana, and Tanzania, meticulously assessed the entrants, reflecting the global resonance of African creativity.

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Gerard Sekoto Award Winner: Bulumkho Mbete (South Africa). Courtesy of Absa L’Atelier.

The evening’s commencement revolved around the eagerly awaited revelation of the Gerard Sekoto Award winner, a distinguished accolade named in honor of the eminent South African artist, Gerard Sekoto. Renowned for his influential contributions to modern art and poignant depictions of urban life and the struggles faced by black South Africans, this award is administered by the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) in collaboration with Absa and the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA). This prestigious award aspires to foster and endorse contemporary South African art and facilitate cross-cultural exchanges through an illustrious residency in Paris. Traditionally bestowed upon young artists aged 25 to 35, demonstrating exceptional talent and innovation, this award propels artistic endeavors in the country. The announcement of this year’s recipient, Bulumko Mbete, a proudly South African artist, resonated throughout the venue, evoking an emotional moment of celebration and recognition.

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Absa L’Atelier Group A represented by Edward Lawerh (Ghana). Courtesy of Absa L’Atelier.

Capping off this remarkable evening, Absa L’Atelier unveiled the prestigious main prize, recognizing three winning Ambassadors from distinct groups: Group A represented by Edward Lawerh from Ghana, Group B by Gayi Eric Joe from Uganda, and Group C by Idowu Emmanuel from Nigeria. The winning artists not only showcased innovative visions but also demonstrated skillful execution that encapsulated the essence of contemporary African art. Notably, the competition expanded to a Pan-African scale in 2019, leading to remarkable achievements. It is worth highlighting that artists from Nigeria and Ghana have triumphed three times each since the competition’s Pan-African expansion. This year, history was made as an artist from Uganda took the spotlight for the first time, underscoring the diversification of winning artists across various African countries and emphasizing the competition’s growing impact and the wealth of artistic talent across the continent. The Absa L’Atelier Awards 2023 represent a pivotal moment in the artistic journeys of these remarkable individuals, signifying not only their individual accomplishments but also the collective advancement of the African art scene.

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Absa L’Atelier Group B represented by Gayi Eric Joe (Uganda). Courtesy of Absa L’Atelier.

Dr. Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist: Art and Museum Curator at Absa, shared profound insights on the transformative power of art during the event. He emphasized the importance of not only championing but also wholeheartedly nurturing budding talents that enrich the artistic landscape. He remarked, “Emerging artists are not merely creators of the present, but architects shaping the destiny of the artistic narrative for generations to come.” This sentiment echoed throughout the venue, underlining the significance of investing in and fostering the growth of these talents, ensuring a legacy of perpetual brilliance that resonates through time.

Absa L’Atelier Group A represented by Idowu Emmanuel (Nigeria). Courtesy of Absa L’Atelier.

In a momentous development, Absa L’Atelier proudly announced its partnership with the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (UP). This collaboration signifies a commitment to advancing the creative sector across the continent and exploring opportunities for the three entities to collectively propel the African artistic narrative forward. The Javett Art Centre at UP acknowledged Absa’s and SANAVA’s substantial investments in supporting Africa’s visual artists for the long term. This partnership recognizes the importance of contributing to the curatorial vision and looks forward to collaborative initiatives that will further shape the future of African art.

Lekgetho Makola, CEO of the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria, expressed the strategic importance of this partnership, with the aim to champion the promotion and curation of art and cultural heritage programs, using them as powerful instruments for social transformation and innovation. He envisioned a collective reimagining of the future, particularly for the vibrant continent of Africa, contributing passionately to shaping a cultural legacy resonating through generations. Additionally, the commitment of Absa and the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) to supporting young artists was commended. This commitment not only provides a platform for emerging artists but also underscores the importance of fostering growth within the artistic community through young audience participation.

Mr. David Martinon, Ambassador of France to South Africa, highlighted the power of the Absa L’Atelier Awards and Gerard Sekoto Award in celebrating creativity and diverse perspectives. He expressed pride in being part of an initiative that aims to turn artists’ visions into reality.

At the heart of the Absa L’Atelier narrative lies the powerful mission of “Empowering Africa – one story at a time.” Absa and its partners stand ready to actively nurture, guide, and empower these young artists, breathing life into their unique artistic narratives while building a vibrant tomorrow for today’s visionaries. The event showcased the profound impact of art in shaping the destiny of the African artistic landscape, an enduring celebration of artistic excellence and cultural legacy. For further information, please visit the official Absa L’Atelier website.

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