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2010 Absa L’Atelier Art Awards’ winners

Reading colour by Ilka Van Schalkwyk. Van Schalkwyk coveted top prize for her new media installation.
2010 Absa L’Atelier Art Awards’ winners announced amidst 25th anniversary celebrations
South Africa’s young artists have once again proved their mettle in a sterling display of homegrown
creativity in the prestigious Absa L’Atelier Art Awards competition, which this year celebrates its
historic 25th year anniversary as the longest-running competition of its kind on the continent.

Unlike the previous years, this year’s pool of submissions was undoubtedly about identity and how
they experience the country we are living in.

Much of the selected work seems to have subversive strategies, not in loud and shocking ways, but
rather in strangely guarded tones.

Ilka van Schalkwyk and Bongumenzi Ngobese have been named the respective first and second
place winners out of more than 100 finalists, which were chosen by a national selection panel led by
Gwen Miller. Merit Awards were awarded to Abri de Swardt, Philiswa Lila, Collen Maswanganyi and
Hanje Whitehead.

Pretoria-based Van Schalkwyk scooped the coveted top prize for her new media installation,
Reading colour. The judges described the piece as “a cerebral affair reflecting intellectual games of
texts that in themselves rebel against prescriptive institutions. Like the referenced songs and
literary texts that were defiant in their strategies, this visual text becomes subversive of the social
body. The work is a marvellous example of an open text with multi-layered meaning.”

Durbanite Ngobese was awarded the Gerard Sekoto Award for the most promising artist with an
income of less than R60 000 per annum, for his mixed media piece Kwa-Mamkhize. The panel said
Ngobese’s hidden parcels under the table signified secrecy, a lifestyle of makeshift storage systems
of a society in flux. “This is a social order of migrants, who have to take up their belongings and
make them fit into any vehicle or, metaphorically, any culture, to be able to move on. The work
holds so many possibilities of engagement in relation to our current society,” the panel said.

As part of her prize, Van Schalkwyk wins R110 000 in cash and a six-month sabbatical at the Cité
Internationale des Arts in Paris, courtesy of Absa. Ngobese wins a three-month sabbatical at the
Cité, French language classes and nationwide touring exhibitions sponsored by the French Embassy,
French Institute and the Alliance Française. Both prizes include airfare and free access to galleries
and museums in Paris.

All four merit award winners receive R25 000 and each of the top ten finalists, including Van
Schalkwyk, Ngobese, the four runner-ups as well as Vincent Bezuidenhout, Sibusiso Duma, Maja
Marx and Lyle van Schalkwyk, receive a R2 000 bonus prize.

The Absa L’Atelier Art Awards is Africa’s pre-eminent annual art competition. It has earned itself
the reputation for being the most influential art competition on the continent, not only because of
the incredible opportunities afforded by the main prizes, but also because of the unrivalled
exposure the artists receive.

“This really is a special year in the history of the Absa L’Atelier Art Awards. We’ve celebrated our
25th anniversary with the most amazing creative expression from South Africa’s most talented
young artists. The standard of work is excellent; this year’s pool of submissions was undoubtedly
about identity and how they experience the country we are living in. I want to pay tribute to them
as they change our ordinary world into a creative one,” said Cecile Loedolff
The competition is open to young artists between the ages of 21 and 35, and attracts entries from across
the country, which are open to public viewing during the regional judging rounds.
Kwa-Mamkhize by Bongumenzi Ngobese, Second Place winner who was awarded the Gerard Sekoto Award
Merit Award winner Hanje Whitehead
Merit Award winner Collen Maswanganyi
Merit Award winner Philiswa Lila
Merit Award winner Abri de Swardt