Strength and resilience will come into sharp view when critically acclaimed collective of curators, Nkule Mabaso and Nomusa Makhubu rise alongside a three-member team of visual artists, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tracey Rose and Mawande Ka Zenzile to represent South Africa at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy. The team will host art lovers and visitors at the South African Pavilion from 11 May to 24 November 2019.
On 9 May South African Pavilion will exclusively officially be opened to guests and the media, while the public will have the opportunity to see new works from the artists from 11 May. Earlier in the day, a group of patrons of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection will have a special visit to the pavilion, accompanied by their curator Nat Trotman.
Established in 1895, La Biennale di Venezia is one of the oldest art events in the world, with over 80 countries and artists represented at various individual pavilions.
Mabaso and Makhubu have curated a pointed response to the global theme, May You Live in Interesting Times, by Ralph Rugoff, who curates the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
Reflecting on South Africa’s ability to creatively triumph beyond “interesting” social and political dynamics, Mabaso and Makhubu have conceptualised the exhibition under the theme: The Stronger We Become.
According to Rugoff, the theme: May You Live in Interesting Times seeks to include and reflect the ‘precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the “post-war order.”’
South African’s 2019 participation at the La Biennale is set to create dialogue, evoke a new way of thinking and set the tone for the countries’ current situation. With the chosen theme: The Stronger We Become; South Africa’s peaceful transition into democracy, the people’s ability to overcome challenges and chart a new path, aptly responds to the many precarious aspects of the country’s 25 years into the new dispensation.
Both Mabaso and Makhubu agree that they have for a long time come to admire the works of Bopape, Rose and Ka Zenzile who are at the forefront of ‘critically engaging South Africa’s contemporary life and lived experiences’ of its citizens. ‘We wanted to work with artists that would help us achieve a particular way of thinking and fit with the chosen curatorial purpose. We are confident that they are best placed to articulate these ideals,’ the curators said during the recent round table discussion. This year the curators will be exploring the themes of resilience and resistance, which stems from South Africa’s painful history of land dispossession, institutional knowledge, unbalanced hegemonic power relations which today continue to play out in the social and political space. According to the curators, the title of the exhibition also draws its reference from the song, (Something Inside) So Strong, written by Labi Siffre in 1984 and cites the suffering of black South Africans under apartheid.
Known for her experimental video montages, sculptural installations, paintings and found objects, Dineo Seshee Bopape brings her intuitive flair that transforms spaces into meditative arenas as she explores themes of historical narratives, fiction and personal narratives.
Tracey Rose who is no stranger to Venice, having presented her work as part of the Harald Szeemann’s Plateau de l’Humaniteat 49th Venice Biennial (2001), through her performance and multimedia inspired presentation seeks to reflect and confront the many absurdities of contemporary life in post-apartheid South Africa.
Mawande Ka Zenzile thrives in confronting issues of coloniality with a body of work that draws from African epistemology. His creative practice engages with how knowledge operates. Using riddles, idioms and proverbs, Ka Zenzile probes different world views, epistemologies, ways of learning, knowing and living.
The artists will be tackling these explosive themes through their use of humour and satire, as they ask the question: How are social disparities mediated? How can certain social conditions be overcome? How does continuous social engagement reinforce social resilience? In essence, the exhibition seeks to show the many sides to a story and a plurality of knowledge.
South Africa’s participation at La Biennale di Venezia is made possible by the Department of Arts and Culture.