In this issue Artwolfe is delighted to present Nicola Brandt in conversation with Raphael Chikukwa and Antonio Olé, discussing Zimbabwe and Angola’s participation in the 2015 Venice Biennale. Nicola provides valuable insight into the context of the interviews, here.
Raphael Chikukwa, the curator of this year’s Zimbabwe Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, expressed powerful views on politics, history, and the role of contemporary art in an interview during the Biennale’s opening week:
Over the years we have seen how people lose themselves because of so-called ‘globalism,’ which as we know is not global, this is why our Ubuntu/Unhu is pixelating…Capitalism creates division. Look at the ‘Western’ world, they can tell their citizens to go all over the world, but they tell immigrants not to come here.
I interviewed both Raphael Chikukwa and Antonio Olé, the curator of the Angolan Pavilion, in the context of Okwui Enwezor’s theme for this year, “All the World’s Futures.” The Nigerian-born curator, writer, and critic, Enwezor is the Biennale’s first African curator.
The Angolan and Zimbabwean Pavilions, now in their second and third years, respectively, are exemplary for fulfilling the ethos of Enwezor’s Biennale. Many of Enwezor’s curatorial strategies reflect his interest in historical consciousness and larger concerns of the effects of globalization and political and economic uncertainty. Both exhibitions, situated in the heart of historical Venice, evoke the proximity of seemingly faraway places – although this greatly depends on which way one looks. According to both Chikukwa and Olé, the Biennale provides a crucial platform for trans-national dialogue between countries in Africa and the global south and north, especially in the context of rising political tensions in emerging post-colonial nation states, and the refugee crisis in Europe. A number of the works funnel postcolonial knowledge and encounters against the thrust of dominant globalism. While the context of the Biennale, and the works on display, give a clear nod to these dominant structures, a number of the works question their effects: increasing political and economic inequality, willed amnesia, and consumer nihilism.
The selected artists who have been exhibiting with Chikukwa and Olé have resisted the disappearance of historical struggles in the wake of hegemonic, neo-liberal realities. Instead, they negotiate, through dynamic and innovative modes, not only the legacies of contested historical pasts, but try to imagine alternative narratives and image-worlds. Olé says, “We cannot preview the future without reflecting on the past, otherwise we are constructing a society without memory. To be able to construct something for the next generation, we need to remember.”
Nicola Brandt is a Namibian-born artist and scholar based in Namibia and the UK.
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the ARTWOLFE editorial team