Visual art competitions are not a common phenomenon in most African countries, more so in those which have no structures in place to develop the creative industries.

But since it was unveiled in 2007, the annual Barclays L’Atelier Art Competition is now been hailed as one of Africa’s most prestigious art contests.

With its growing relevance built on a platform created over last couple of years recent past, the event’s popularity continues to spread across the continent and in countries, where Barclays Africa has a presence.

The competition contest’s basic objective is to offer young visual artists aged between 21 to 35 opportunities to develop their talents beyond their own countries, with the winners bagging residency stints abroad.

Eligibility was initially, limited to artists who are residents on permanent basis in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Ghana and Kenya.

But over recent years, invitations to participate have been extended to artists in Egypt, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritius and Mozambique among other countries.

The painters or sculptors shortlisted as finalists benefit from competition’s guaranteed exposure – with their artworks, sculptures or video art entries showcased in an annual exhibition.

More significantly, the selected entries are published in a catalogue which is sought after by international art collectors and gallery curators from across the globe.

This year’s event, whose deadline to submit entries closed on April 28 – has an array of accolades lined up for grabs in five different categories.

They include the first prize, three merit awards besides also the Gerard Sekoto award for the most promising artist.

In addition, top 10 finalists are expected to take part in a two-day art professionalism course whose primary focus aims to equip them with career management tips.

Under this arrangement, each of the finalists is paired off with a seasoned artist, who is then expected to provide mentorship, handy, formative skills and work together for a year.

The adjudication criteria is based on an artist’s conceptual/ thematic engagement, freshness of his/her vision in the context of African contemporary art, technical execution besides also the artwork’s aesthetic appeal.

But more significantly, the competition grants a cross section of artists, those with formal training as well as self-taught artists, with an equal opportunity to participate in the contest.

The overall winner’s prize is inclusive of return flight ticket to Paris, France and South African Rand 300,000, which must be used for three to six months study residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts studio apartments.

Three other residencies are also lined up at the Bag Factory Artists Studio – South Africa [3 months], the Sylt Foundation Island of Sylt – Germany [2-months] and the Ampersand Foundation – New York [1-month].

The third award winner is entitled to the honour to become a Ampersand Foundation Fellow besides been a recipient of an AAM (American Association of Museums) card, which entails free access to numerous New York City museums.

All entrants are eligible for this prize with dates for the residencies beginning January to August 2018. These prizes must also be taken up the year after it is presented.

Besides having access to return flight tickets to the respective cities, the artists in residence are also entitled to monthly stipends for the entire duration.

The winners are slated to be announced on 13th September 2017.

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