2021 Ambassadors

See the winners on a virtual world

Visit now

Adelheid von Maltitz – South Africa

2021 Absa L’Atelier Ambassador: Winning artist in Group A

Portfolio statement

Von Maltitz is presently enrolled for a Doctor of Philosophy, Fine Art, at the University of the Free State, South Africa. She is also presently a full-time lecturer in the Department of Fine Art at the University of the Free State.

For Von Maltitz, making sculpture and installation art involves processes in artmaking that are comparable to conventional historical, as well as contemporary rituals, which engage with death and loss. This process was sparked when she observed (what looked like) a mother and sister continually, over months, rebuild and maintain a roadside shrine which she passed regularly on her daily commute. Through her artmaking process, it allows Von Maltitz to think and work through personal anxieties regarding the trauma of loss and death.

Von Maltitz considers most of the materials used in her artworks as site-specific, either directly collected from a site of trauma and loss or attempting to reference that site. These site-specific materials include earth, cremated bones, hair, nail clippings, breastmilk and lint. The use of resin and Plexiglas is primarily to support these materials, and they also contribute meanings through their own material characteristics.

Ayobola Kerere-Ekun – Nigeria

2021 Absa L’Atelier Ambassador: Winning artist in Group B

Portfolio statement

Kekere-Ekun was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1993. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Visual Arts from the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos; where she majored in Graphic Design. She also holds a PhD in Art and Design from the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Kekere-Ekun artistic practice rests on three foundational pillars. The first is an attraction to lines. The second is the seemingly neutrality of paper; and, the third is use of fabrics in Yorùbá, Nigerian society.

Kekere-Ekun has always had a genuine fascination with lines and how the primary component of all complex forms can be ambiguously loaded with meaning. A line can connect and separate, enclose and exclude, direct and misdirect, all at the same time. To a large extent, her work is a three-dimensional manifestation of lines. She amplifies their complexity by enabling them to catch pockets of light and cast subtle shadows. This becomes an avenue to tease out smaller stories within wider narratives visually.

Kekere-Ekun views paper as a conceptual Trojan horse. It’s a basic, unassuming material that exists in the backgrounds of our lives; bland, reliable, and ordinary. By making paper the visual centerpiece of her art, she encourages her audience to reconsider the material’s value and potential. This re-examination also underscores a running theme in her art practice, which is that things are rarely what they appear to be.

Lastly, across her art practice, Kekere-Ekun uses fabrics as a reference to the practice of Aṣọ ẹbi in Nigerian society. Aṣọ ẹbi, which translates to “family cloth” refers to the selection of a fabric that serves as a “uniform” worn by families and friends alike during communal ceremonies such as weddings, birthdays and funerals. It is intended to be a show of love, support and camaraderie. The practice has, however, been corrupted in contemporary times, becoming a common source of disputes when prices are excessively inflated to turn a profit and community members are unable or unwilling to acquire the fabric. Kekere-Ekun use of fabrics references how the positive can quickly mutate to take on negative connotations. It is also a visual representation of societal pressure and expectations.

Kekere-Ekun enjoys exploring themes related to gender, memory, mythology and identity. Due to childhood trauma, she does not have memories of her early years. Her body of work for the Absa L’Atelier attempts to reconstruct the idea of childhood, real and imagined.

Michael Blebo – Ghana

2021 Absa L’Atelier Ambassador: Winning artist in Group C

Portfolio statement

Michael Blebo was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1993. He holds an Honors Degree in Fine Arts (Sculpture) from Kwame Nkrumah University if Science and Technology, Ghana.

As an emerging artist Blebo combines both his independent art practice and work with unconventional material such as white clay (shile), charcoal, natural pigment, brown paper, chipboard, etc. Scale plays a major role in his artworks as he was influenced by the large scale works of some artists such as Richard Serra, Laurie Lipton and Adonna Khare.

Blebo employs sculpture, installation and drawing at the helm of his practice. Through his art practice he experiments and is inspired by his environment as it is flooded with visible and invisible patterns of objects which in a way turn out to present itself as abstract. Blebo explore layers of deep memory and myth that bear the forces (good and evil) in the environment as would be objectified through his artwork as biomorphic drawings.

In this body of artwork for the Absa L’Atelier, Blebo explores his environment and domestic architecture decay on the dialectic of what is lost and what is left and questions what secrets remain.

Abongile Sidzumo – South Africa

2021 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award winner

Portfolio statement

Sidzumo was born in 1996 in Cape Town. He completed his degree in Fine Arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Arts, Cape Town, South Africa, in 2019.

Sidzumo’s work is a reflection of his personal memories and lived experiences in relation to the boarder socio-political issues. He is often influenced by various aspects of his childhood, and the shared memories within home and community scapes. Through his creative practice Sidzumo attempts to use materials that relates to his connection with those spaces.

Sidzumo works with leather offcuts and repurposed materials to create works that reflect and interrogate humanity, the way we co-exist and our relationship with nature. He revisits memories and connects them to spaces he has lived in as well as the everyday life of marginalized communities.

Leather is often associated with luxury, wealth and power. Through his process of restitching and weaving this precious material, Sidzumo proposes that we start thinking about repurposed materials, connecting it and his process of stitching to notions of healing trauma that has been inflicted on black communities during apartheid. In a sense, Sidzumo’s practice functions as am anner of interrogating the continuous healing of black communities in post-apartheid South Africa.