The intimate official opening launch of the South African Pavilion at 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia brought local and international art fraternity under one roof on Thursday 9 May 2019.
The opening launch was attended by South Africa (SA) Consul-General and Ambassador to Italy, Ms T Nxumalo; Department of Arts and Culture representatives, DDG Ms. Kelebogile Sithebelo and Acting DDG, Mr. Charles Mabaso; the duo of critically acclaimed curators of the SA Pavilion, Nkule Mabaso and Dr Nomusa Makhubu; organisers and exhibition logistics company respectively, Lala Tuku of Corporate Icons Media and Brendan Copestake of Parts & Labour, and the trilogy of visual artists representing South Africa at Venice – Tracey Rose, Dineo Seshee Bopape and Mawande Ka Zenzile whose art is featured at the SA Pavilion under the curatorial theme: The Stronger We Become.
Programme Director, Acting DDG Mr. Charles Mabaso welcomed the guests and handed over to South African Consul General, Ms. T Nxumalo, who officially declared the SA Pavilion open with words of encouragement directed to the curators and the artists as well as the visual art fraternity.
‘The South African Pavilion is an important part of what we do as the South African Consulate General, based in Milan. The Biennale is the key feature of our cultural diplomacy as it enables us not only to look after the interests of our nation in this part of the world and beyond, but facilitate and build good international relationships with the world at large. It brings us joy and fills us with pride to join other countries that participate in the Biennale,’ said Consul-General Nxumalo.
The exhibition of work by the artists under the theme: The Stronger We Become, seek to highlight the resilient spirit of South Africa and its citizens, juxtaposed against the 58th International Art Exhibition’s theme, May You Live in Interesting Times, as coined by chief curator of Biennale di Venezia, Ralph Rugoff. The South African curators, Mabaso and Makhubu were on hand to articulate the theme and what informed their choice of the three artists who will be representing South Africa at Venice for the duration of the Biennale, which ends on 24 November 2019.
Later in the evening Consul General hosted a gala dinner which marked the official welcoming of guests, officials, the media, and gave artists and curators a chance to further engage with guests. During her speech at the dinner, DDG Ms. Kelebogile Sithebelo echoed CG Nxumalo’s words, by congratulating ‘the curatorial team for this guiding creative vision… our curatorial team, Nkule Mabaso and Nomusa Makhubu who have astutely captured the spirit of the current socio-political moment in South Africa. Their chosen theme, The Stronger We Become is an impressive response to the larger theme of the 58th International Art Exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times by curator, Ralph Rugoff. The three artists whose work define our national Pavilion, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Tracey Rose and Dineo Seshee Bopape, we say thank you too. You embody the best of who we are as a creative people.’
Presiding over the festivities musically was South African born London and Paris based DJ MoLaudi, whose latest single, Dance Inside You set the tone for the SA participation at Venice as the Biennale formally got underway.
The opening night was filled with poise, grace and a strong appreciation of South Africa’s diverse and colourful cultures, adorned by artefacts, ornaments such as African pottery, hand-made art, which indeed proved that we do live in interesting times, and that South Africa is a country of resilience. The fact that the opening night coincided with the general elections in South Africa served to contribute to the electric energy of the opening night.
The South African Pavilion will be open to the public until 24 November 2019.
South Africa’s participation at La Biennale di Venezia is made possible by the Department of Arts and Culture – South Africa.