Ela LifestMaral Bolouri of Kenya took top honours and was awarded the main prize. (Photo: L’Atelier)African art was brought to life when several seemingly normal artworks lining the entrance of the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg at this year’s prestigious L’Atelier art awards by Barclays Africa and SANAVA

Reflecting the idea of giving art a platform to thrive, the L’Atelier awards entered their 32nd year in 2017, marking another fruitful year of collaboration between sponsors Barclays and South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA).

Maral Bolouri, who was also among top 100 finalists in 2015, won the overall award for her installation Mothers and Others. It is a multi-sensory, interactive installation investigating representations of women in African oral traditions.

Banele Khoza, also a top 100 finalist in 2015 and 2016, was awarded the Gerard Sekoto Award, for his piece Note Making, which comprises a series of digital drawings printed with an inkjet printer.

L’Atelier addressed a broader social context that explores the power of arts by juxtaposing negative and positive depictions of both man and women in cultural truisms.

Taking a jab at the society-driven stereotypes that women are tools of seduction, Priscilla Kennedy’s piece Untitled 2016 picked up the first Merit Award.

Artists’ works reflected a broad array of human psychological interpretations such as sloth and beauty and style of South African youth in the 70s, with illustrations how these people define themselves today and 50 years later.

“It’s so encouraging to see Africa’s young artists making the most of the opportunities that are being created to support and help grow their careers. It’s important not only that artists take advantage of these opportunities, but that they put their best works forward when doing it,” said Dr Paul Bayliss, curator of Absa Art and Museum.

“I’m proud to say that this year’s participants didn’t disappoint, and we were treated to exceptional quality works. This bodes well for the future of contemporary African visual art,” Bayliss added.