The National Arts Festival, curators and managers of South Africa’s pavilion at the world’s most prestigious art exhibition, the Venice Biennale, have announced that two acclaimed South African artists will perform in the city next week to round off the six-month exhibition.
Nelisiwe Xaba and Donna Kukama will perform a pair of specially commissioned pieces in Venice from the 22nd of November. They are the final two of 17 artists representing the country in the Department of Arts and Culture-funded South African national pavilion.
Wishing them well on their journey to perform in Venice, Minister of Arts and Culture Paul Mashatile applauded the two artists, saying that the quality of their performances will resonate with audiences, and will give them something to remember South Africa’s presence in Venice by. “These two women are symbols of a young, energetic, passionate and highly creative group of artists in South Africa,” Mashatile said. “They need to use the platform to tell South African stories and lead debates about the nature of art from a South African perspective. Their work is very exciting and we are privileged to present them in the South African pavilion.”
Nelisiwe Xaba’s performance, called The Venus in Venice, blurs fact and fiction in a performance that takes the biography of Sara Baartman as its starting point. Sara “Saartjie” Baartman (1790-1815) was a South African Khoikhoi woman who was displayedin 19th century circuses and exhibition shows across London and Paris under the pseudonym Hottentot Venus. Instead of dying in Paris in 1859, Xaba asks the audience to imagine that Sarah Baartman has been deported back to South Africa under the ruling of Nicolas Sakhozy. Xaba explains, “she came back to South Africa and found herself not fitting, she misses th e way of life in Europe”. The Venus finds herself lost, no longer allowed in Paris, and alienated from her home life, and makes her way to Venice – where she performs during the Biennale.
For Xaba, The Venus in Venice is at once an attempt to access the suffering and emotion of Sarah Baartman’s life and an exploration of the artist’s identity as a performer. Xaba – who is fascinated by the politics of display – states “The Venus is a rumination on the impossible task of understanding or accessing the thoughts of the dead – and on the rigidity of the archive, which paradoxically opens itself up to the interpretations of the living.” The Venus in Venice is as much about the artist’s issues with the exoticised black body in contemporary performance and fine art as it is about the exploitation and eroticised body of Saartjie Baartman in Europe in the 1800s.
Donna Kukama will present The Very Last Announcement – a sound-based performance work also created especially for the Biennale, and which forms part of a series of works that Kukama has been engaged in over a period of time. The most recent in the series A Catalogue Without Pages (vol.1) (vol.2) took place at the Museé de l’Art Contemporain, as well as the Sucriére – the two main venues during the Biennale de l’Art Contemporain in Lyon, 2013. All the works in this series have taken place at major exhibition venues and serve Kukama’s enquiry into processes of contemporary art, its construction, its exhibition and its dissemination.
For The Very Last Announcement, Kukama has meticulously culled the texts from the visitor’s books in the South African Pavilion, and created an entirely new text derived from the scores of comments it contains. She will speak these through a megaphone during specific times in the final hour of the exhibition, making use of a ruptured narrative and repetition; and volleying her sound work from the edges of the Pavilion, walking on the boundaries of the nation state’s exhibition to remind us that these national frames are also both porous and unreliable.
“These final two performances in the exhibition Imaginary Fact reflect an engagement by contemporary South African artists not just with the archive and history, the theme of this year’s Pavilion. They also demonstrate wickedly inventive ways of foregrounding universal contemporary subjects such as the relationship of the immediate present to the archive, the mediation and construction of meaning in the moment and destabilizing the very perception of realities.” says Jay Pather, Chairperson of the National Arts Festival’s Artistic Committee.
Xaba and Kukama’s performances will take place at the South African Pavilion in the Arsenal; on 22, 23 and 24 November 2013 at 15:00 and 17:15 respectively.
The full list of South African artists who have been part of the South African exhibition in Venice is Andrew Putter, Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter, David Koloane, Donna Kukama, Gerhard Marx, Maja Marx, Philip Miller, James Webb, Joanne Bloch, Johannes Phokela, Nelisiwe Xaba, Penny Siopis, Sam Nhlengethwa, Sue Williamson, Wim Botha and Zanele Muholi.
The 55th International Art Exhibition takes place in Venice from 1 June to 24 November 2013, and the South African Pavilion is curated by the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.
More Info link:: http://www.labiennale.org/en/Home.html
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Nelisiwe Xaba. They Look at me… at Jomba Dance Festival 2006 Photographer: pic Val Adamson. 2006
Photographer: Donna Kukama. 11th Biennale de Lyon. pic Stephane Rambaud. 2013 (20)