South Africa Gets Ready for Venice Biennale 2019

The South African Department of Arts and Culture has appointed Nkule Mabaso and Nomusa Makhubu of Natal Collective to curate The South African Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition, under the theme titled “The Stronger We Become”. This theme speaks to the collective fortitude of South Africa to overcome and espouse the leanings to rebuild its identity.

Preparations underway at the SA Pavilion in Venice

The South African title was chosen in response to the 2019 curatorial theme, “May You Live in Interesting Times”, set by Ralph Rugoff. Rugoff suggests that “uncertainty, crisis and turmoil” make it necessary to focus on “art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking”.

Mabaso and Makhubu have together previously curated “Fantastic”, a touring international group exhibition in 2015; and in 2018 “The Mechanisms Are In Place”, a solo exhibition of the work of Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, and working on a creative publication of the same title.

Nkule Mabaso and Nomusa Makhubu of Natal Collective

The South African Pavilion will showcase works by the artists Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tracey Rose and Mawande Ka Zenzile from 11 May to 24 November 2019. The three artists that have been selected to represent South Africa explore the themes of social, political and economic resilience.

“Resilience: Art speaks life and has the power to ignite the spirit of a people.”

Mawande Ka Zenzile. Image courtesy of the artist
When You Look At Me My Spirit Leave My Body (Diptych) // Cow dung, gesso and oil on canvas, 2019 // Image Courtesy of the Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town

Corporate Icons Media has been appointed for logistics and communications support. The commissioner, Consul-General Titi Nxumalo will work alongside the Natal Collective to organize The South African Pavilion. South Africa’s participation at the La Biennale di Venezia is made possible through the support from The Department of Arts and Culture.

“Making work is a documentation of a journey, each stage, each process and each dilemma has to be worked through. At one time I felt pressured to do a lot of things at the same time, but now I want to take one step at a time. When you make an art work you’re not just doing something at that moment, you’re contributing to an entire history of art making”. – Tracey Rose.

Tracey Rose Image courtesy of the artist
Speaking Feminisms with Tracey Rose at Savvy Contemporary, Berlin. Photo Credit: Raisa Galofre

“This international arts exhibition in Venice is an important platform to showcase South Africa’s rich and varied artistic talent, especially in the year in which South Africa celebrates 25 years of freedom and democracy,” says Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

“The creative economy contributes more than a billion rand to the GDP. The Venice Biennale is one of the biggest platforms in the global art world that provides an opportunity for the artistic work of our artists to expose what our country has to offer. Through their brilliance, we hope to exude confidence of the aspiring artists to see the value of the creative economy and to harness it to create employment” – Director-General , Mr Vusumuzi Mkhize.

Dineo Seshee Bopape. Image Courtesy of the artist
Lerole: Footnotes (The struggle of memory against forgetting) (detail), 2018.Mixed media installation view Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg/BeirutImage courtesy of the artist and Galerie Sfeir-Semler, Hamburg /Beirut

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