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Tuesday, April 18, 2017


(Collen Maswanganyi)

Deadline: between April 24 & 28, 2017

The power of the L’Atelier art competition ( to open doors for young, emerging artists and provide them with a platform to share their art with the world, is highlighted in a new short film on L’Atelier Merit Award winner, Collen Maswanganyi.

The L’Atelier presents life-changing opportunities for artists in 10 African countries. The 2017 competition is now open and looking for other self-taught or professional African artists just like Collen who have a passion for contemporary visual arts.

Titled Mbatlo, the film traces Collen’s love affair with wood material, and his deep desire to continue his family’s legacy of sculpting wood using the traditional mbatlo tool.

“This is a tool used to carve and shape wood. But it’s not just any tool. It’s special. It has been handed down from one generation to another. It has allowed me, my father and my grandfather to not only shape wood, but shape the future of African artists,” Collen tells viewers in the poignant film.

As the film moves through the significance of the mbatlo in Collen’s work, it shows how this special tool has come to symbolise the Maswanganyi family as artists – Collen’s father, Johannes Maswanganyi is an acclaimed South African sculptor who has exhibited both locally and internationally – and how it has given Collen himself a voice to express his views through his sculptures.

The inspiration for this expression is seen in the visual feast the film offers up; a smorgasbord of snapshots of Collen’s world that sees him marvelling at the unconventional beauty and ‘madness’ around him.

“I find inspiration all around me. I see beauty where others don’t, and bring this to life through every cut, scrape and scratch,” Collen explains, as the viewer is taken on a visual journey through South Africa, from the hustle and bustle of the township where Collen lives, to the traffic and trampling feet of the city, and finally to the tranquillity of his family’s homestead where he sits on the banks of a still lake at dawn, carving his next piece.

More than just demonstrating how Collen is able to transform rough, cast-off wood into engaging sculptures with stories to tell, the film shows how Collen has been able to share his talent through the opportunities afforded to him by winning a L’Atelier Merit Award in 2010.

L’Atelier organisers are now calling on young artists across the continent to enter the L’Atelier 2017 art competition, which promises the winner and finalists’ access to unparalleled exposure and opportunities to grow their careers both in South Africa and abroad.

L’Atelier 2017 is hosted by Barclays Africa ( in conjunction with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA). It enters its 32nd year this year, and is aimed at young, up and coming contemporary visual artists aged 21 to 35.

The competition aims to nurture young talent, and serves as a platform for emerging artists to make their mark in the African art arena. As such it is open to young artists in the 10 African countries where Barclays Africa has a footprint, namely, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles and, for the first time in 2017, Mozambique.

Artists can submit up to a maximum of three artworks, with works being physically delivered to collection points for initial adjudication. Physical works will not be accepted at the collection points if artists have not completed their online registration.

Independent adjudicators at the various collection points will select the works that will go forward to the final adjudication round, which will be held in Johannesburg in June 2017.

Registration for L’Atelier is now open, and can be completed online at All artworks must be completed and submitted to their nearest collection point (see the website for details) between April 24 and 28, 2017.

The L’Atelier competition has been instrumental in launching many significant careers in the visual arts. Once again, it features a string of highly coveted art residency prizes for the top two winners and top three merit award recipients, in addition to a significantly increased first place cash prize of R300,000. The top 10 finalists are placed on a two-day art professionalism course to assist them in managing their careers.

Full competition details can be found at