Young UCT artist profiled at Barclays L’Atelier

3 Oct 2016 - 10:30

UCT student Matete Motubatse (left) pictured with representatives from the French Embassy who are one of the main sponsors of the award

Fourth year visual art student Matete Motubatse recieved the Gerard Sekoto Award at the 2016 Barclays L'Atelier art awards held in Johannesburg. Motubatse secured the prize alonsgide fellow Michaelis School of Fine Art students Thandiwe Msebenzi, Sethembile Msezane and Asemahle Ntlonti who were also placed in the top ten of this year’s competition. His winning work titled ‘moya’ is in video format.

The Barclays L'Atelier art competition is run in conjunction with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA). For 30 years, it has provided an annual showcase of fresh, young and talented South African artists. The competition  aims to profile and recognise young visual artists who are then given the opportunity to develop their talents abroad. This year, prizes were awarded in five categories: a first prize, three merit award prizes and the Gerard Sekoto Award for the most promising artist.

Gerard Sekoto was a South African artist (1913-1993) who spent 40 years of voluntary exile in France. He was a painter and a selt-taught musician who is widely regarded as one of the most iconic South African artists. His work has been exhibited in Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Washington, Senegal and South Africa. He was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (1989) by the French Ministry of Culture shortly before his death. In 2003, he was awarded the Order of the Ikhamanga by the President of South Africa for achievements in the arts and culture.

Motubatse says ‘Moya’ is about the relationship between the body and breath. In the video, a man tries to remove a black plastic bag that is covering his head using only his breath. “In Sepedi, not only does ‘moya’ mean breath, but it also means air, spirit and/or soul. Thus the black plastic bag represents the material form of a nonphysical form that blocks the body (or someone) from breathing. To use breath to contest the very object that suffocates air is equivalent to entering a spiritual, soulful battle, as air/breath/spirit/soul are nonphysical. Thus this film symbolizes ‘ntwa ya moya'; that is, an intense celestial battle of nonphysical forces,” says Motubatse.

As winner of the Gerard Sekoto Award, he receives a sponsorship package from The Alliance Française, the French Institute and the French Embassy which includes: a return flight ticket to Paris, a three month residency in the Cité Internationale des Arts and a solo exhibition in the Allinace Francais network in South Africa and its partnering galleries. Previous recipients of the Gerard Sekoto Award include: Mongezi Ncaphayi (2013), Bambo Sibiya (2012), Isabel Mertz (2011), Bongumenzi Ngobese (2010); Nyaniso Lindi (2009); Retha Ferguson (2008); Nina Barnett (2007); UCT lecturer Nomusa Makhubu (2006); Lawrence Lemoana (2005); Billie Zangewa (2004). Top 10 competition finalists are also paired with a mentor who will work with them for 12 months.

From 2015, the Barclays L'Atelier art competition has extended its reach to include artists from Botswana, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Mauritius or Seychelles, making it one of the most prestigious art competitions on the African continent.