Curated by Amè Bell, the South African pavilion will feature works by Lebohang Kganye, Phumulani Ntuli and Roger Ballen for the 59th Venice Biennale.

Under the theme of questioning in relation to containment, quarantine and the various restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic that have negatively impacted almost every field, with artistic expressions being particularly affected. However, misfortune regularly brings inventive open doors.

The disengagement of the person from social collaborations with peers gives reality to a sincere reflection, reevaluating what our identity is, a great motivation for us and how we present ourselves to the world. This interaction can reveal secret facts that are the basis of personal identity and individual creative expression. This is the message that South African art will convey through its structure at this year’s Venice Biennale to be held in Italy from April 23 to November 27, 2022.

Held every two years since its inception in 1895, the Venice Biennale is a major event in the world’s calendar of events and is often described as the Olympics of the art world.

The South African booth was designed around the sub-theme « Into the Light », which integrates with the exhibition theme, adding the element that the isolation and detachment due to COVID-19 can be a vehicle for artists to engage in a focused self-evaluation.

The three South African artists who will be exhibited during the 2022 Venice Biennale – in particular photographer Roger Ballen, who challenges the art with prints that women prisoners had made by scraping away the paint used to close their cell windows.

For his showcase « The Theater of the Apparitions », he developed his own process, covering glass with paint, cutting away the coating and lighting the glass from behind. This strategy gives rise to a dramatic monochromatic world in which dream figures are drawn together with swirling shadowy specters with unusual customs.

In « B(l)ack to Fairy Tales », Lebohang Kganye personally projects and photographs herself as the heroine of the Western fantasies of her adolescence, but she situates these one-act appearances in a South African township. The « happily ever after » dream milieu of the fantasy stands in contrast to the horrific truth of her life as a young girl in the township, testing the inevitable impact of old legendary stories on our minds and worldviews.

« Godide » by M. Phumulani Ntuli, is a work that uses animation. In this sensitive photographic realm, M. Phumulani Ntuli portrays himself as a valiant traveler, shedding his conventional African clothing to shed his ideas of his own character before diving under the paper-cut waves.
In this watery dreamland that is only accessible through the creative mind, he encounters the immense variety of personal characters, social affiliations, places of belonging and conditions of existence that are conceivable within the geopolitical framework.

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In the same way that artists have put forward and undertaken their own excursions of disclosure in search of creative truth and rethought their personalities, the aim is to encourage visitors to the South African stand to embark on their own excursions. Through the imaginative use of lighting, dressing and stand design, the team is aiming to motivate and engage visitors to explore their own darker realms.

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