African Pavilions And Diasporic Perspectives At Venice Art Biennale 2024

As the 60th International Art Exhibition Foreings Everywhere kicks off (20 April - 24 November 2024), here is our go-and-see list.

by GRIOT - Published on 16/04/2024
Tesfaye Urgessa. COURTESY the artist

BENIN

Benin makes its debut announcement for participation in the Venice Biennale. Co-curated by Azu Nwagbogu, Madame Yassine Lassisi, and Franck Houndegla, the inaugural exhibition aims to connect Benin’s contemporary art production with the global discourse on restitution movements, decolonization, and reclamation. Offering a fresh perspective, the curatorial team brings forth the theme Everything Precious is Fragile to the Biennale stage in 2024. The exhibition will feature four Beninese artists: Romuald Hazoumé, Chloe Quenem, Ishola Akpo, and Moufoli Bello. Each artist will create site-specific works, contributing to a dialogue on the fragility of preciousness within the context of Benin’s artistic landscape.

Venue
Arsenale
Venice

Ishola AKPO, Traces of a Queen IV series, 2020. Collage and sewing on paper, cotton threads. AGBARA Women Project. COURTESY the artist

CAMEROON

After its debut in 2022, the Republic of Cameroon returns to the spotlight at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, with the project Nemo propheta in patria, which invites five Cameroonian artists and eight international artists from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Colombia, and China. The local artists include Jean Michel Dissake, Hako Hankson, Kendji & Ollo Arts, Patrick-Joël Tatcheda Yonkeu, Guy Wouete, while the international lineup features Angelo Accardi, Julia Bornefeld, Cesare Catania, Adélaïde Laurent-Bellue, Franco Mazzucchelli, Rex and Edna Volcan, Giorgio Tentolini, and Liu Youju.

Inspired by the Biennale’s theme Strangers Everywhere, the exhibition project led by commissioner Serge Achille Ndouma and curators Paul Emmanuel Loga Mahop and Sandro Orlandi Stagl explores a theme ubiquitous across eras. The Latin adage “Nemo propheta in patria” (No one is a prophet in their own land) underscores the common circumstance where individuals seldom receive acclaim and recognition in their birthplace, but rather find it among strangers.

In this context, a “prophet” is simply someone misunderstood by their contemporaries and compatriots due to their divergent nature. This individual stands out not necessarily due to extreme levels of talent or genius, but for their capacity to envision beyond, to perceive what others overlook, to anticipate change, and to think divergently from the masses. Consequently, they often face misunderstanding, particularly within their native community, where conformity to group “norms” is expected.

Venue
Palazzo Donà delle Rose,
Fondamente Nove, 5038
Venice

Patrick Joël Tatcheda Yonkeu, Ascèse-Diptych, 2018. COURTESY the artist

CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF

Congo will shine under the theme LITHIUM through the artistic practice of the collective of artists, Kongo Astronauts: Aimé Mpane, Eddy Kamuanga Ilunga, Eddy Ekete, Jean Katambayi Mukendi, Cédric Sungo, Steve Bandoma, Eléonore Hellio and Michel Ekeba. Orchestrated by curators Joseph Ibongo Gilungula and Michele Gervasuti, James Putnam.

Venue
Gervasuti Foundation – Palazzo Canova
Calle longa Santa Caterina,
Cannaregio 4998 – 5001/a

EGYPT

Alexandrian-born artist Wael Shawky will represent Egypt at the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. A natural storyteller, Shawky takes historical and literary references as starting points for his immersive narratives that interweave fable, fact and fiction to tackle common notions of national, religious and artistic identity. Based on extensive periods of research and enquiry, his work across film, performance, painting, drawing and sculpture inverts and reframes contemporary culture through the lens of historical tradition and events. For the Egyptian Pavilion, Shawky has created Drama 1882, a filmed rendition of an original musical play directed, choreographed, and composed by the artist, around Egypt’s nationalist Urabi revolution against imperial influence (1879-82). The year 1882 was the year this revolt was crushed by the British, who then went on to occupy Egypt until 1956. The film is accompanied by vitrines, sculpture, paintings, drawings and a mirror relief made in Murano.

Venue
Giardini
Venice

Wael Shawky, Al Araba Al Madfuna III, 2016, HD-video, 27,2 min. Photo: David Stjernholm. COURTESY the artist

ETHIOPIA

The Ethiopian Pavilion’s inaugural exhibition will feature works by Tesfaye Urgessa. Renowned author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay OBE FRSL assumes the role of curator for this momentous showcase. Born in 1983 in Addis Ababa, Urgessa began his artistic journey at the Ale School of Art and Design, Addis Ababa University, under the tutelage of the esteemed modern master Tadesse Mesfin. His artistic quest continued at the Staatlichen Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, where he was immersed in the legacy of German Neo-Expressionism and the ethos of the London School of Painters. Urgessa’s distinctive artistic lexicon intertwines Ethiopian iconography with a profound reverence for traditional figurative painting. His works delve into themes of race and identity politics within intimate domestic contexts, offering a poignant exploration of societal narratives.

Venue
Palazzo Bollani
Castello 3647

Tesfaye Urgessa, Love Doesn’t Grow on Trees 2, 2022. COURTESY Saatchy Yates and the artis

IVORY COAST

Simon Njami has been chosen to curate this pavilion. Titled The Blue Note, the exhibition will showcase works by five Ivorian artists – Jems Koko Bi, François Xavier Gbré, Sadikou Oukpedjo, Franck Abd-Bakar Fanny, and Marie Claire Messouma – inspired by the blue note in jazz music, which has its origins in the music made by enslaved African.

Venue
Centro Culturale Don Orione Artigianelli
Dorsoduro 947
Venice

View of Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien: L’être, L’autre et L’entre (The Being, the Other and the Between), 2023, Palais de Tokyo, Paris. COURTESY

KENYA

Following the theme Roots of Return, the Kenyan pavilion will be curated by Milka Mugo and Edward Mwaura Ndekere. The selected artists representing the country include Elkana Ong’esa, Gerald Oroo Motondi, Robin Okeyo Mbera, John Tabule Abuya Ogao, Peter Kenyanya Oendo, and Charles Duke Kombo.

Venue
To be announced

Gerald Oroo Motondi, Suprise move at Mosan Museum, South Korea, 2009. COURTESY the artist

NETHERLANDS

The Congolese artist collective Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) is representing The Netherlands, supported by artist Renzo Martens and curator Hicham Khalidi. The collective consists of several artists under which are Matthieu Kasiama Kilapi, Ced’art Tamasala, and Lisette Mbuku Kimpala.They will present new artworks as part of their ongoing commitment for the plantation of Lusanga “to be freed, regenerated and transformed back into sacred forests, as well as their commitment to a greater project of spiritual, ethical and economic reckoning.” The exhibition will be on display at the Rietveld Pavilion in Venice and simultaneously in the White Cube in Lusanga (DRC).

Venue
Giardini

View of Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise, SculptureCenter, New York, 2017. Photo: Kyle Knodell. COURTESY

NIGERIA

Nigeria will present its second-ever pavilion since its first participation in 2017. Officially organized by the Museum of West Africa Art (MOWAA), the Pavilion is curated by Aindrea Emelife, curator of Modern and Contemporary at the Museum of West African Art, Benin City. Under the title Nigeria Imaginary, the pavilion exhibitions will feature an intergenerational group of nine Nigerian and Nigerian diasporic artists including Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Ndidi Dike, Onyeka Igwe, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Abraham Oghobase, Yinka Shonibare, Fatimah Tuggar, and Precious Okoyomon who “explore different perspectives and constructed ideas, memories of and nostalgia for Nigeria, with a scope that is cross-generational and inter-geographic.”

Venue
Palazzo Canal, Rio Terà Canal, Dorsoduro 3121
Venice

SENEGAL

The Senegalese Pavilion makes its debut at this year’s Venice Biennale, under the theme Bokk – Limites. The pavilion will exhibit works by Alioune Diagne, a painter renowned for his technique of creating images of people in motion and leisure through disparate strokes that blend harmoniously when viewed from a distance. Diagne aptly labels his style “figuro-abstract” in acknowledgment of the unique manner in which his paintings operate. Curating the pavilion Bokk – Bound, Massamba Mbaye selects the term “Bokk” from the Wolof language, translating to “what is shared” or “held in common.”

Venue
Arsenale
Venice

Alioune Diagne, Photo © Laurent Edeline. © Courtesy of the artist and TEMPLON, Paris, Brussels, New York

SOUTH AFRICA

The South African Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale 2024—entitled Quiet Ground—presents a multidisciplinary sound installation by artist collaborative MADEYOULOOK, made up of Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho. Curated by Portia Malatjie, this installation, titled Dinokana (2024), is the culmination of seven years of research in northern South Africa, exploring histories of land work and traditional infrastructures of land repair. Dinokana delves into the experiences of Bahuruste and Bakoni peoples, highlighting cycles of displacement and return and the significance of land-based rehabilitation. Referencing historical infrastructures of recovery and traditional water technologies, the installation embodies long-held spiritual connections to water and land, essential in South African life. At its core, Dinokana features an 8-channel sound composition foregrounding the power of rain and water in South African society. Through field recordings, interviews, and a constructed landscape reminiscent of Bokoni terraces, the installation captures the essence of rain’s role in repair and regeneration.

Against the backdrop of South Africa’s history of forced migration and land dispossession, Quiet Ground explores personal and communal repair in the context of feeling “foreign at home.”

The  20min sound work begins on the hour and again at half-past the hour.

Venue
Arsenale
Sala d’armi Nord
Venice

TANZANIA

Tanzania, making its first appearance at the Biennale, will present four artists, each allocated a dedicated space. Lutengano Mwakisopile and Happy Robert will focus on migrations to and from the West, reflecting on colonialism and diaspora, respectively. Meanwhile, Haji Chilonga and Naby will envision the future of Tanzania from contrasting perspectives. Selected by curator Enrico Bittoto, the artists will present their work exploring the concept of the Other, each allocated a dedicated space. Lutengano Mwakisopile and Happy Robert will delve into migrations to and from the West, contemplating colonialism and diaspora, respectively. Meanwhile, Haji Chilonga and Naby will envision Tanzania’s future from contrasting perspectives.

Venue
La Fabbrica del Vedere
Calle del Forno 3857
Venice

UGANDA

Following its debut in 2022, the Ugandan pavilion returns to Venice with the exhibition Wan Acel, Alur for We are one. Curated by Juliana Naumo Akoryo and Elizabeth Acaye Kerunen, it will feature works by 26-person Artisan Weavers’ Collective, including Sana Gateja, Taga Nuwagaba, Xenson Ssenkaba, Jose Hendo and Odur Ronald. The show intends to act as a snapshot of the Ugandan scene as its stands right now.

Venue
Bragora Gallery
Castello 3496
Venice

View of Odur Ronald’s Muwawa, 2021. Photo: Tamie Clicks. COURTESY

ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe will be represented by a group of six artists in a pavilion titled Undone: Gillian Rosselli, Kombo Chapfika, Moffat Takadiwa, Sekai Machache, Troy Makaza, and Victor Nyakauru. Led by artistic directors Raphael Chikukwa and Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa, the Zimbabwean pavilion promises an inspiring and enriching presentation, offering a glimpse into the country’s vibrant artistic creativity.

Moffat Takadiwa, The Afronauts, 2021. COURTESY the artist

Venue
Santa Maria della Pietà
Castello 3701
Venice

DIASPORIC PERSPECTIVES

CANADA

Kapwani Kiwanga is recognized as one of the country’s most acclaimed contemporary artists whose research-driven work is instigated by marginalized or forgotten histories, and articulated across a range of mediums including sculpture, installation, video, and performance. Her presentation in Venice will be curated by Gaëtane Verna, Executive Director, Wexner Center for the Arts. The artist was selected by experts in contemporary Canadian art.

Venue
Giardini
Venice

Kapwani Kiwanga, Terrarium. Installation view at La Biennale di Venezia, 2022. COURTESY La Biennale di Venezia

FRANCE

The selection committee chaired by Chiara Parisi, Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Rima Abdul Malak, Minister for Culture, has chosen Julien Creuzet to represent France at the 60th Biennale di Venezia in 2024. A visual artist and poet, he actively intertwines these two practices via amalgams of sculpture, installation and textual intervention that frequently address his own diasporic experience. Inspired by the poetic and philosophical reflections of Aimé Césaire and Édouard Glissant on creolization and migration, Creuzet’s work focuses on the troubled intersection of the history of Martinique and the events of European modernity.

Julien Creuzet, Prix Duchamp 2021. Installation view at Centre Pompodiou, Paris, 2021. COURTESY the artist and High Art, Paris / Arles.

Venue
Giardini
Venice

GREAT BRITAIN

The artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah will represent Great Britain at Venice. Akomfrah is widely known for his art films and multi-screen video installations, which explore major issues including racial injustice, colonial legacies, diasporic identities, migration and climate change.  The London-based artist initially came to prominence in the early 1980s as part of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), a group of seven artists founded in 1982. The BAFC’s first film was Handsworth Songs (1986) which explored the events around the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. In recent years, his multichannel video works have evolved into ambitious, multi-screen installations shown in galleries and museums worldwide. In 2017, he won the Artes Mundi prize, the UK’s biggest award for international art. He has previously participated in La Biennale di Venezia with his piece Four Nocturnes, commissioned for the inaugural Ghana Pavilion in 2019. Tarini Malik seves as Associate Curator of the British Pavilion.

John Akomfrah, Four Nocturnes, 2019, three channel HD colour video installation, 50 min. © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Smoking Dogs Films and Lisson Gallery

Venue
Giardini
Venice

PORTUGAL

Monica De Miranda, Path to the Stars, 2022. COURTESY the artist

Artist-curators Mónica de Miranda, Sónia Vaz Borges, and Vânia Gala will present a ‘Creole garden’ at the 2024 Venice Biennale titled Greenhouse. The gardend will function as a sculpture, school, stage, and installation. The multifaceted creation will contemplate the intersections of nature, ecology, and politics, as well as the interactions between the public, communities, and artists. alazzo Franchetti, overlooking the Grand Canal, from April 20 to November 24, 2024.

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