Absa Bank is redefining the intersection of art and finance in Africa

Some officials of Absa Bank and guests in a group picture

In the world of banking, the mention of art might seem out of place. Yet, Absa Bank is defying this notion, thanks to its more than three decades of association with the esteemed L’Atelier Pan-African Art Competition.

For 37 years, the Absa L’Atelier has been one of Africa’s most prestigious art competitions, captivating artists and enthusiasts alike. What sets this competition apart is Absa Group’s transformative decision to extend it to some of its markets across the continent. Since Ghana’s inclusion in 2015, three Ghanaian artists – Henry Obeng, Michael Jackson Blebo, and Gandor Collins – have been crowned winners.

This bold move by Absa demonstrates its unwavering commitment to its clients and customers. “What matters to our customers is of utmost importance to us. The L’Atelier Art Competition clearly shows our dedication to meeting the needs of our customers in every possible way. Art is a common platform for bringing people together in Africa and Ghana. By associating with this art platform, we bring our customers closer and foster stronger connections,” affirms Nana Essilfuah Tamakloe, Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations at Absa Bank Ghana.

Michael Jackson Blebo engaging some of the guests at the event

As part of the 2021 prize package, The Absa Gallery introduced country tours, allowing some winners to exhibit in their home countries. Ghana had the privilege of hosting the roadshow exhibitions in 2023, with Michael Jackson Blebo – the 2021 winner, leading a group of artists, Adelheid Frackiewicz and Ayobolo Kekere-Ekun from South Africa and Nigeria respectively.

At the Institute Museum of Ghana, Noldor Residency in Accra, the exhibition titled ‘Refuge: An Uncommon Home’ provided a captivating experience for art enthusiasts. Michael Jackson Blebo expressed his excitement, saying: “The L’Atelier competition gave me the platform to showcase my talent to diverse audiences across the continent. It was an exciting period in my career journey, and I hope to leverage that success to take my career to new heights”.

The exhibition delved into themes that spoke to the artists’ self-reflective journey through art, confronting personal trauma, and anxieties about the past and future. Using a blend of objects and traditional materials, they delicately navigated the creation of these artworks, discovering solace and tranquility within their own personal spaces.

Visitors to the Noldor residency in Accra spoke of a reimagined experience of the home as a place of refuge, extending beyond the physical realm. Theodore Albright, an art enthusiast and legal professional, marvelled at the “visceral experience of pure traditional African art on display. You felt you were in a different place; total serenity and clarity”.

Absa Bank’s commitment to art and culture through the L’Atelier competition not only elevates the profile of African artists, but also strengthens the bank’s connection with its clients and communities. It is a testament to how finance and art can beautifully intersect, shaping a more vibrant and culturally enriched Africa.

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