2019 Venice Biennale News

Dineo Seshee Bopape, Mawande Ka Zenzile, and Tracey Rose Will Represent South Africa at the 2019 Venice Biennale

Tracey Rose, Span I, 1997.


Just two and a half months before the Venice Biennale opens, South Africa has revealed details for its pavilion. The artists representing the country this year are Dineo Seshee Bopape, Tracey Rose, and Mawande Ka Zenzile, and their presentation in the exhibition—opening May 11 and running through November 24—will be overseen by Nkule Mabaso, a curator at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis Galleries, and Nomusa Makhubu, an artist and art history lecturer at the University of Cape Town.

Mabaso and Makhubu’s pavilion is titled “The Stronger We Become,” and its aim, according to a release, is “capturing the collective fortitude of South Africans.”

“While South Africa remains a fragmented society with a fragile political landscape, there is still agency reflected in these artists’ works that buoys social resistance,” the curators said in a joint statement.

Bopape’s sculptures and installations have frequently dealt with collective memory and the ongoing impact of historical events in the present. For the 2018 Berlin Biennale, Bopape, who is based in Johannesburg, showed a piece that drew on a Nina Simone performance and a Bessie Head novel, and drew out connections between colonialism and madness.

Ka Zenile’s paintings allude to racism and colonialism as they relate to South Africa. The Cape Town-based artist’s work was included in the Cape 09 Biennale.

This is the third time Ros has been featured in the Venice Biennale, having appeared first in the group exhibition of the 2001 edition and in the African Pavilion in 2007. The Johannesburg-based artist’s performances, photographs, and installations have drawn on post-Apartheid politics in South Africa and conceptions of femininity in the country.

The news of the pavilion comes almost a year after South Africa pulled out last-minute from the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. In a statement at the time given to the South African publication City Press, a spokesperson for the South African Department of Arts and Culture said the funds for that presentation would be reallocated to this year’s Venice Biennale pavilion.

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