12 October 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Supplied
Adelheid von Maltitz explores loss, death, and the process of grief in her art installations and sculptures.

An ‘Absa L’Atelier Ambassador’ is what Adelheid von Maltitz, Lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts, will be known as after she was named winner of Group A – which includes Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia – in the 2021 Absa L'Atelier art competition.

Von Maltitz, however, is no stranger to this prestigious competition; she has been in the top 100 at least four times since 2006 when she first entered the competition. The Absa L’Atelier is an international competition with about 12 participating countries. “I have entered this competition on and off since 2006 when I graduated with my BA in Fine Arts,” Adelheid says. This year, the process was online, and she had to apply with an entire portfolio of artwork. 

She regards herself as an artist who is very self-reflective and who often spends time in her imaginary world. As a lecturer, she often also spends time in the imaginary worlds of her students. “Both are interesting and inform each other,” she says. 

Being an L’Atelier Ambassador 

“The Absa L’Atelier prizes are primarily focused on helping each winning artist grow their brand and learn relevant skills that will help them build their careers as artists,” Adelheid says.  Other benefits that come with the ambassadorship is the extensive training opportunities with leading international art experts, which include building an art portfolio, media training, audience development, and public relations, among others. “I will further receive mentorship from a leading local authority in the visual art industry, which is also great,” she says.

“Finally, the prize I am extremely excited about is the opportunity of having a solo exhibition within the next five years at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg.”  The three winners will also work together on a group exhibition within the next year and will visit each other’s home countries.  

The process of making art

Adelheid is a sculptor and installation artist, and for her, making art is “comparable to conventional historical, as well as contemporary rituals, which engage with death and loss”.  The materials she uses are site-specific, either collected directly from sites of death and loss, or attempting to reference those sites. “These site-specific materials include earth, cremated bones, hair, nail clippings, breast milk and lint,” Adelheid says.

“My art making is intimately linked to my personal life experiences. I became interested in how my art-making processes are in their own way constructive and productive means by which I explore difficult ideas, themes, or concepts when I observed (what looked like) a mother and sister continually, over months, rebuild and maintain a roadside shine that I pass regularly on my daily commute.” 

Adelheid enjoys the stimulating academic environment where she was able to grow her own artistic practices with the support and input from UFS colleagues, students, and alumni. 

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