Counting some of Uganda’s most prolific artistic talent among its past entrants, Barclays Bank Uganda’s parent company, Absa Group, has unveiled a new-look Absa L’Atelier, while encouraging Ugandan artists to enter the unique competition. Ultimately, three finalists will receive international artistic residencies at France’s Cité Internationale des Arts and in South Africa as part of the competition.
Designed to identify and nurture the rich artistic talent across Africa, Absa L’Atelier intends to give the next generation of African artists the grounding and skills needed to bring their possibilities to life and build sustainable careers in the arts. The competition’s new look – which is in-line with Absa Group’s new visual identity – is a taste of what is to come for Barclays Bank Uganda, which is on its own journey to change its name and look to the Absa brand.
The competition is open to entrants from the 12 African countries in which the Absa Group operates: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
The country’s track record in the Absa L’Atelier competition is strong, with Ugandan artist Gillian Abe having taken home a First Merit Award at the 2018 Absa L’Atelier, for her work Seat of Honour. Ugandan artist Darlyne Komukana’s Kampire Past was exhibited at the 2018 Absa L’Atelier exhibition, alongside work by fellow locals Adonias Ocom (a photographer and figurative artist) and Donald Wasswa (a contemporary multidisciplinary artist).
“Uganda is renowned as an artistic melting pot in Africa, with ancient, old and more modern art all mixing together to create a colourful artistic cultural history. The country’s long history of formal art education has contributed to a developed art sector, but we hope that Absa L’Atelier’s support for emerging Ugandan artists will play a role in further developing the sector,” said Harriette Kasirye, Head of Marketing and Corporate Relations at Barclays Bank Uganda.
Entrants will compete within ‘country groups’, which were drawn at the opening event in Johannesburg earlier this morning. The 12 countries have been divided into three groups of four countries, and participating artists will compete with other artists within their group. Ugandan entrants will be competing against participants in Pool C, which also includes Namibia, Nigeria and Zambia.
Entering its 34th year, Absa L’Atelier has built a strong legacy as a platform that allows the dynamic, inspiring and young visual artists of our continent to shine. “Established during the peak of apartheid in South Africa, L’Atelier soon gained prominence as one of the few platforms for visual artists to gain exposure locally and internationally. It has solidified that reputation in the intervening years,” says Dr Paul Bayliss, Absa Group Art & Museum Curator.
Changes to this year’s Absa L’Atelier programme
As a way of building on this legacy and to ensure that Absa L’Atelier remains at the cutting edge of the ever-evolving art world, Absa has made several changes to the competition this year – changes that are designed to ensure participating emerging artists receive the right artistic support for their discipline.
Key changes to competition include a streamlining of the adjudication process, which has been moved online to reflect Absa’s shift towards becoming a digitally led bank. The competition now features one tier of adjudication that allows entrants (aged 21 to 40) to submit a portfolio of work comprising a minimum of four and a maximum of five pieces of artwork. All adjudication will be conducted on the designated digital platform.
Absa L’Atelier’s changing face means artists’ works will be reinterpreted and curated through a more pan-African lens that will ensure they get the exposure they need to help bring their possibility to light. This focus ties in with Absa’s commitment to the continent, which is encapsulated in its Africanacity concept.
Absa L’Atelier seeks to provide African talent with the platforms necessary to bring their possibilities to life; with a hope that these will create a generation of ambassadors that will, in turn, go on to mentor younger artists.
Developing African artists through the Absa L’Atelier programme
Of special note is that the victors from each group will receive a one-month artistic residency in Paris, and become art ambassadors for the African continent. Absa L’Atelier partner Cité Internationale des Arts and Alliance Française will offer much-needed support to the artistic ambassadors during this residency in the form of mentoring and facilitating meetings and connections with other artists.
“Absa L’Atelier plays a critical role in supporting different visual dialogues and strengthening the presence of the artist within the African and European continents,” says AvithaSooful, President of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), another Absa L’Atelier partner.
Ambassadors will then travel to South Africa for a two-month residency, during which time they will collaborate between themselves on developing new art pieces for the final Absa L’Atelier exhibition. Artists can also work on individual pieces for the final exhibition, and will receive a weekly Art Masterclass designed to hone their skills during their two-month residency. These masterclasses will be filmed and published online as a way to share knowledge.
The Absa L’Atelier exhibition will open at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa and participating artists will thereafter return to their respective home countries – the culmination of a months-long journey designed to draw attention in multiple markets to each person’s art. The invaluable experience gained from residencies, exhibitions and mentorship from renowned industry experts will form the core prize.
“We believe in nurturing the incredible talent seen across the continent, and in working to ensure that priceless skills and knowledge are passed between like-minded artists in a way that helps up-and-coming artists build prosperous long-term careers in the art world,” said Harriette Kasirye.