Angola Marks Venice Biennale Debut with a Victory

Angola, exhibiting for the first time at the Venice Biennale, has been awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for the best national pavilion.

Curated by Paula Nascimento and Stefano Rabolli Pansera, the exhibition, which was commissioned and supported by the Angolan Ministry of Culture, features a selection of photography, painting and sculpture in a novel setting.

Being a newcomer to Venice, Angola has had to rent an exhibition venue for the duration of the exhibition, which runs until November 24. Rather than follow the lead of Zimbabwe and Kenya, which inhabit temporary venues on the busy tourist promenade between the gardens and St Mark’s Square, Angola is showing its artists in Cini Palace, a plush historic building near Accademia Bridge, a busy tourist destination.

Defying the odds – and some stiff competition from the French, German, Danish and Romanian pavilions, all of which generated art world buzz, and long queues – Angola succeeded Germany as holder of the top honour of best pavilion.

The decision was made by a five-women jury that included Bisi Silva, a curator and founding director of the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos. They paid particular attention to countries that managed “to provide original insight into expanded practice within their region”.

Experiencing the city
Angola’s pavilion was selected for the way it reflected on “the irreconcilability and complexity of site”.

Split across two levels, the show begins with a purposefully awkward juxtaposition of mass-produced posters, displayed on 23 palettes, inserted into a lavishly wallpapered series of rooms filled with cordoned-off collection of early Renaissance art and domestic objects.

The posters, by Edson Chagas, depict uncaptioned photographs of doorways and discarded objects from Luanda. Visitors are free to remove a poster and take it home.

“Central to Chagas’s work is a reflection on the ways in which images are used to give form to the way the city is experienced,” offered the curators in a press statement.

The exhibition continues upstairs where there is a display of orthodox wood sculptures and paintings describing aspects of Angola’s creative output since 1991. One noteworthy piece is a polished wood sculpture by João Domingos Mabuaka Mayembe, which abstractedly portrays a seated figure. Entitled Vuata N’Kampa ku Makaya Katekela, the work won the 2006 Ensarte Great Prize of Sculpture in Luanda.

Although a first time exhibitor at the Venice Biennale, Angola was a participant on the 13th International Architecture Exhibition, held in Venice in 2012. According to Raphael Chikukwa, the curator at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe who in 2011 oversaw Zimbabwe’s successful re-emergence at Venice, the Angolan organisers also conferred with him.

Alongside Angola and Zimbabwe, four other African states – Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya and South Africa – are also hosting national pavilions at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Source: Mail & Guardian http://mg.co.za/article/2013-06-04-angola-marks-venice-biennale-debut-with-a-victory