Saturday 21 March 2015

African artists get more space at 2015 Venice Biennale

By Tajudeen Sowole
After the widely applauded success of debutant, Angola Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, Africa is going to the 2015 edition with an unprecedented number of artists. Coincidentally, the increase in number of African artists, home and from the Diaspora going to the 56th Venice Biennale is coming in the year a Germany-based Nigerian, Okwui Enwezor is the Artistic Director of the Visual Arts Section of the event, a global bi-annual gathering of arts and architecture professionals.

Artistic Director, Okwui Enwezor PHOTO: C/O OF Collector Tribune

During the 2013 edition, Angola, according to the jury, won the Golden Lion Prize for the best national pavilion courtesy of a work titled ‘Luanda, Encyclopedic City’, a photography composite by Edson Chagas.

Under the theme, All the Worlds Futures, about 35 black artists from Africa, the U.S and Europe have been announced with nearly half of them based in Africa.   

The 2015 Venice Biennale, which opens from May 9 with previews beginning May 6, and runs through November 22 has over 136 artists from 53 countries. According to a press statement from the organisers, it will feature a space called The Arena, for performance in the Central Pavilion designed by David Adjaye.

he linchpin of this program will be the epic live reading of all three volumes of Karl Marxs Das Kapital, said Enwezor.Here, Das Kapital will serve as a kind of Oratorio that will be continuously read live, throughout the exhibitions seven months duration. Among several other features is what has been described as a new production of Vincenzo Bellini's Norma (1831), which will be staged at La Fenice Opera House and directed by Kara Walker.

All the Nigerian artists listed are either based outside the country or works in a 'one leg in, another out' kind of status. The list include Karo Akpokiere, b..1981, lives and works in Lagos/ Berlin; Invisible Borders: Trans-African Photographers, an artists organisation founded in 2011, based In Lagos, but led by Emeka Okereke, a France-based photographer; Emeka Ogboh b. 1977, lives and works in Lagos/ Berlin.

The Nigerian artists at the 2015 Venice Biennale are not exactly representing the country formally. Nigeria has never had a pavilion at the Venice Biennale, a gathering regarded as the 'Olympics of The Arts'.

Other artists from Africa showing at the event include John Akomfrah, b.1957. Ghana, lives and works In London; Kay Hassan, b.1956, South Africa, lives and works in Johannesburg; Samson Kambalu b. 1975 Malawi, Lives And Works In London; Gonçalo Mabunda, b. 1975, Mozambique, lives and works In Maputo; Ibrahim Mahama, b.. 1987 Ghana, lives and works in Tamale; Abu Bakarr Mansaray, b. 1970, Sierra Leone, lives and works in Freetown/The Netherlands; Wangechi Mutu, b. 1972, Kenya, lives and works in New York; Cheikh Ndiaye, b. 1970 Senegal, lives and works in New York, Dakar And Lyon.

Others are Joachim Schönfeldt, b. 1958, South Africa, lives and works in Johannesburg; Massinissa Selmani, b. 1980 Algeria, lives and works in Algiers/Tours; Fatou Kandé Sengho, b. 1971 Senegal, lives And works in Dakar; Sammy Baloji, b.. 1978 Democratic Republic Of Congo, lives and works in Lubumbashi/Brussels.
In 2013, the board of the Venice Biennale, chaired by Paolo Baratta announced Enwezor as the Director of the Visual Arts Section.  In response, Enwezor stated: "No event or exhibition of contemporary art has continuously existed at the confluence of so many historical changes across the fields of art, politics, technology, and economics, as la Biennale di Venezia. La Biennale di Venezia is the ideal place to explore all of these dialectical fields of reference. And the institution of la Biennale itself will be a source of inspiration in planning the Exhibition."

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