South Africa

Overturning the Archive: A Diplomatic Choice for a Country Facing a Secrecy Bill

In 2011, South Africa was reintroduced to the Venice Biennale after a 16-year hiatus. But this inclusion was not met with the celebration one might expect due to well-founded claims of a lack of transparency regarding the appointment of the curator, questionable curatorial decisions and irregularities in expenditure, all of which were exposed in the press, outraging elements of the arts community and resulting in a dispute in Parliament.

South Africa’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, was at the center of this controversy, which has yet to be publicly resolved. Not surprisingly, the country’s participation in the 2013 Biennale is a much more diplomatic exercise in which the well-established National Arts Festival selection committee was appointed after a rushed public tender process. A broad-reaching diversity of artists and works have been selected by head curator Brenton Maart with the stated intention of examining “products of history” in order to gain a better understanding of the contemporary.

The subject of the archive is highly contested in South Africa today. Some might say the current ANC government is dismissing or neglecting the archive due to its colonial and apartheid legacy; others fight to have it re-read rather than dismissed outright. While the Protection of State Information Bill – a repressive act that has been passed by Parliament despite a groundswell of public protest – sits on the desk of President Jacob Zuma awaiting sign-off.

At this critical moment in South Africa’s history, is reflection on the archive an urgent enough theme? Or is the representation of art on this platform being eclipsed by efforts to divert public attention from the more sinister agendas (kleptocracy, lack of service delivery, police violence against popular protest, fracking in the Karoo, race and ethnic essentialism as ongoing state policy etc) that proponents of the Secrecy Bill seek to mask? Is it once again a case of “A luta continua” (the struggle continues) for South Africans?

Anonymous

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Pavilion

Organizer/Commissioner:
Saul Molobi
Artists:
Andrew Putter; Athi-Patra Ruga; Cameron Platter; David Koloane; Donna Kukama; Gerhard Marx; Maja Marx; Philip Miller; Joanne Bloch; James Webb; Johannes Phokela; Kemang Wa-Lehulere; Nelisiwe Xaba; Penny Siopis; Sam Nhlengethwa; Sue Williamson; Wim Botha; Zanele Muholi
Curator:
Brenton Maart

Curator

Name:
Brenton Maart
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1968
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Maja Marx
Gender:
Female
Born:
1977
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Gerhard Marx
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1976
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Donna Kukama
Gender:
Female
Born:
South Africa, 1981
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
David Koloane
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1938
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Cameron Platter
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1978
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Athi-Patra Ruga
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Andrew Putter
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1965
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Sam Nhlengethwa
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1955
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Nelisiwe Xaba
Gender:
Female
Born:
South Africa
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Kemang Wa-Lehulere
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1984
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
New York

Artist

Name:
Johannes Phokela
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1966
Lives and works in:
The United Kingdom
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
James Webb
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1975
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Cape Town

Artist

Name:
Joanne Bloch
Gender:
Female
Born:
South Africa, 1961
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Philip Miller
Gender:
Male
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1

Artist

Name:
Zanele Muholi
Gender:
Female
Born:
South Africa, 1972
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Cape Town and Johannesburg

Artist

Name:
Wim Botha
Gender:
Male
Born:
South Africa, 1974
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
1
Represented by galleries in:
Cape Town and Johannesburg

Artist

Name:
Sue Williamson
Gender:
Female
Born:
The United Kingdom, 1941
Lives and works in:
South Africa
No. of participations in the venice biennale:
2

Politics & Economics

State System:
Constitutional parliamentary republic
Ruling Political Party:
The African left-wing nationalist party African National Congress in formal alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions
Population (World Bank, 2011):
50,586,757
GDP per capita (World Bank, 2011):
$8,070
Unemployment (World Bank, 2011):
24.7% of the labor force
World Bank credit:
$4,020,000,000
Net OECD ODA Aid Received (2011):
$1,273,420,000
Military Expenditure (SIPRI, 2011):
$4,470,000,000

Alliances


Commonwealth
G20
World Bank debt
International Criminal Court recognized
Non-Aligned Movement
WTO

Conflicts

Country independent since:
1910 (from Britain)
Last Major Border Revision:
1994
Colonial History:
Former British colony
International Court of Justice cases:
4
Global Militarization Index (BICC, 2011):
98
Nuclear Force?
No
Ongoing Conflicts and Disputes:
Unemployment and poverty are South Africa’s main problems along with prevalence of HIV/Aids. Land redistribution is an ongoing issue. South Africa has placed military units along the borders of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration.
Participation in Multinational Missons:
UN peacekeeping missions in Congo, Darfur and Sudan.