Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art, 54th Venice Biennale: South African Pavilion | Torre di Porta Nuova, Arsenale Nuovissimo
The exhibition features South African artists whose work explores a range of realities, memories and fantasies. The artists produce imaginary truths or rather ideal narratives that reflect on South Africa, a country that is simultaneously adored and detested. South Africa is a specific cultural geography desired and envied due to both its violent inhuman history and the current democratic transformation thriving to foster human values of equality, respect and dignity. Such contrasting attitudes toward South Africa also owe to the irreconcilable discrepancies between the country’s wealth and poverty, the beauty of nature and distasteful wellbeing-ness of poor people. These discrepant conditions dictated by politics and economic factors make democratic South Africa very curious, thus a subject of interrogation to artists, curators and scholars. Yet, there are artists who mission not to only reflect on the dark side of South Africa. These artists produce work that illuminates positive thoughts and experiences. Their affirmative work is not simply passive but rather reflective on examining the politics of humanity, quality of life, various human senses and emotions. Featuring artists Mary Sibande, Siemon Allen, and Lyndi Sales, curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe under commissioner Lethole Mokoena, this presentation marks South Africa's first Pavilion showing in 16 years.
— Curatorial text courtesy of the Venice Biennale