The Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) returns next month. Following Nigerian-curator Okwui Enwezor’s critically acclaimed show in 2015, which had a strong focus on the work from the African continent, this year’s main exhibition is titled Viva Arte Viva, and is curated by Christine Macel. “Viva Arte Viva is also an exclamation, an expression of the passion for art and for the state of the artist,” says Christine.
From Nigeria to Morocco and more, the 57th edition of the art fair will see a variety of contemporary artists from different African countries participating in the national pavilion, the main exhibition and beyond. For the South African pavilion, artists Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng were selected to show their works.
This year, 10and5 will be attending the event to give you on-the-ground coverage. In the mean time, here a few of the big names on this year’s roster that we’re looking forward to seeing.
Abdoulaye Konaté is a renowned Malian artist based in Bamako. His work often takes the form of textile-based installations using material native to his country. Woven and dyed fabrics are sewn into abstract compositions, which honor West African tradition. In his artistic practice he explores socio-political and environmental matters effecting Mali and beyond. War, religion, globalisation, the struggle for power, ecological shifts and the Aids epidemic are some of the issues addressed. Abdoulaye will be presenting his work Brésil (Guarani) at Viva Arte Viva. The work is an assemblage, which spans seven meters in width. The idea for the work came from a stay in the Amazon where the artist perceived cultural similarities between the Guarani peoples and the Malian tribes of his homeland.
Working in sound, video, choreography and performance, Cairo-based British artist Hassan Khan’s practice is interdisciplinary and multi-faceted. Hassan Khan, who is showing in the Egyptian national pavilion, is among the younger artists to be exhibited. He draws from his experiences of growing up in Cairo to create conceptual works that build narratives around the city’s disparate citizens, features and phenomena.
Another artist at this year’s Egyptian pavilion is Moataz Nasr. Titled This Too Shall Pass, the award-winning artist’s exhibition will focus on symbolism that integrates layers of social commentary. His practice divers from installations to video and sculpture as well as painting. The need to maintain a connection to his homeland is the thematic premise to his art, which concerns itself with Egypt’s traditions and people. Beyond this, Moataz endeavors to give voice to the worries and torments that affect the continent.
Born in Udomi-Uwessan, Edo State, Nigeria, Victor Ehikhamenor is an award-winning visual artist and writer. His practice includes painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and installation, as well as unique perforated works on paper. His work reflects the spiritual traditions which pervaded his upbringing, applying imagery and symbolism from both Catholicism and Edo traditional religion. Ehikhamenor, on his part, will present The Biography of the Forgotten at the Nigerian national pavilion, which is a large-scale work merging abstract shapes with traditional sculpture inspired by classical Benin art and the consequences of colonialism on cultural heritage.
Peju Alatise is a Nigerian interdisciplinary artist, poet, published author and a fellow at Smithsonian Institute of African Art. Issues of gender, race, politics and culture inform her work, which confronts female societal issues prevalent in the developing world. References to the Yoruba religion are spotted throughout her work to commemorate her ethnic heritage. On view at the Biennale will be Flying Girls, an installation of eight winged life-size girls, based on the story of a 10-year-old girl, who works as a housemaid in Lagos while imagining an alternate reality where she is free and can fly.
Qudus Onikeku is a performing artist from Nigeria, who uses choreography and dance to express himself. His style is a fusion of dance and acrobatics, drawing from the Yoruba traditional philosophy to form the basis of his practice. Onikeku will exhibit Right Here, Right Now, a trilogy of performance film. His work is an investigation into the mechanics of body memory and its relationship to national consciousness.
Contemporary artist Younes Rahmoun will be representing Morocco. His artistic practice encompasses installation, drawing, new technologies and multimedia. Younes’ work is self reflective, born out of a personal search for life’s meaning, however leads to a broader story of spirituality, presenting something much more universal. His spiritual journey is a common thread tying together his diverse body of work.
Harare-based architect-cum-artist Dana Whabira will be representing Zimbabwe. She takes a multidisciplinary approach to her practice, experimenting in assemblages, installation, spatial intervention, sculptural painting and photography. Dana directs her gaze to current affairs, literature, philosophy, and theater for inspiration, and often uses language as a metaphorical device.