African artists at the Venice Biennial

July 2003 -

‘Dreams & Conflicts’ is the theme of the 2003 Venice Biennial. All associations with art, politics and societal developments can be submitted. The Forum for African Arts invited fourteen artists to express their vision: African who live in their own country and some who live far away. The central metaphor is ‘fault lines’ in their lives, their African identity or in African post-colonial history. This produces a diverse image of Africa. Different media are utilised - video, painting, architecture, photography and equipment – and the themes are just as diverse. It is clear that a one-dimensional and authentic Africa does not exist.

‘Fault lines’ refers to large shifts in the earth’s crust, but also to the creation of new landscapes. For example, Salem Mekuria created a film presentation about the existence of conflicts, war, famine and the exodus from Ethiopia. Zarina Bhimji’s image of an vacant Ugandan landscape shows the physical traces of the migration. Kader Attia portrays transvestites and transsexuals. They depict the experiences of Algerian migrants and those without legal documentation who literally and figuratively live on the fringes of the French capital. Political and social violence is a frequently occurring theme. Laylay Ali painted cartoons about the conflicts involving race and power. In their presentations, Pitso Chinzima and Veliswa Gwintsa from South Africa show that violence is one of the biggest problems resulting from globalisation. And Sabah Naim's film and presentation depict the ever increasing gap between the international arena of media and global politics on the one hand and the world of the average Egyptian and his daily struggle to survive on the other.

Two years ago the Forum for African Arts was presented at the Biennial, with great success. The Prins Claus Fund published the catalogue for that exposition. In June of this year the Prins Claus Fund published a new publication: ‘Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes’, for the forum’s second exhibition at the Biennial.

The Venice Biennial runs until November 2nd.