The intimate official opening launch of the South African Pavilion at 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia brought South Africans and the international art fraternity together under one roof on Thursday 09 May 2019. 

The opening launch was graced by South Africa (SA) Consul-General, Ms T Nxumalo. In attendance were also representatives from the Department of Arts and Culture, namely the Deputy Director General of Institutional Governance, Ms. Kelebogile Sethibelo, and Acting Deputy Director General (Acting DDG) of Arts, Culture Promotion and Development, Mr. Charles Mabaso. 

The duo of critically acclaimed curators of the SA Pavilion, Nkule Mabaso and Dr Nomusa Makhubu were present as well as the crtically acclaimed 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.”

They were accompanied by organisers and exhibition logistics company, respectively, Lala Tuku of Corporate Icons Media and Brendan Copestake of Parts & Labour.

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 a 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”, seeks 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 are representing South Africa in Venice for the duration of the Biennale, which ends on 24 November 2019.

Later in the evening the 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 Sethibelo 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. To the three artists whose works 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 DJ MoLaudi, whose latest single, ‘Dance Inside You’ sets the tone for the South African participation in Venice as the Biennale formally gets underway.

The opening night was filled with poise, grace and a strong appreciation of South Africa’s diverse and colourful cultural expressions, adorned by artefacts, and ornaments such as African pottery, hand-made art, which indeed prove 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 focus on the general elections in South Africa and occurs in the context of the celebration of 25 years of democracy served to contribute to the electric energy of the opening night.

The South African Pavilion will be open to the public from 11 May 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.

The South African Pavilion
Biennale Arte