Word View

Death to Venice! A South African perspective on the irrelevance of representation at the Venice Biennale

Mario Pissarra, 07 May 2006

[This previously unpublished piece was originally submitted to the arts editors of leading South African newspapers in October 2003]

In a recent paper (soon to be published in art journals here and in the UK) I raised the questions as to whether South Africans are capable of making a paradigm shift away from a world view centred on the West, and whether we are able to develop an inclusive vision of Africa.[1] Reviews by Marilyn Martin and Sue Williamson on the Venice Biennale amplify the need for these issues to be debated.[2]

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I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It! How the Minister’s Imbizo resurrected suppressed childhood memories and hurled me into the horrors of the present

Mario Pissarra, 16 April 2006

After five years at the local, whites-only government school I was sent to a private, then boys-only, Catholic boarding school. Sending your children to be educated by strangers with a penchant for corporal punishment was entirely consistent with the child rearing ethics of the post slavery/colonial plantation class. Where the school stood apart was that it was more liberal than most- it was modeled on Thomas More, the English chancellor who chose to lose his head rather than his principles, and the school adopted his motto of “truth conquers all”. In 1977 I attended my first ever political meeting, called by the Black Sash to protest against deaths in detention, dressed in my Sunday Best. One prize-giving ceremony a few years earlier we were treated to the Chief Minister of Kwa Zulu, Mangosuthu Buthulezi who arrived with a fleet of black Mercedes’ with number plates one to six.

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The African Renaissance: Confronting the Unspeakable

Randolph Hartzenberg, 26 March 2006

[Originally presented at the Design Education Forum of South Africa conference at the Cape Technikon, now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, June 2000]

A plague wind has been sweeping across Africa, blowing across stagnant pools of absurdity, deception and attrition. The wind tears into the new millennium. Attempts at reconciliation are cast adrift. It is with disbelief, though not unexpected, that one encounters South Africans, who having chosen the supremacist path of the pre-1994 era, and having swallowed the “race” classification pill then, are now still slaves to that deception. It seems they believe that stagnation is viable, that locking themselves inside “die huis van die dowes” is still an option. It is against the backdrop of these absurd ironies that the inspiration for an African Renaissance programme has emerged. A plan for unity, for the renewal of Africa. A plea for the re-humanisation of this traumatised continent. President Thabo Mbeki, has, like Robert Sobukwe decades before him, with urgency, repeatedly spoken of his vision for progress that embodies the concept of an African Renaissance.

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Connecting Africa

Mario Pissarra, 18 February 2006

[Paper prepared for the “Reconnecting Africa” panel at the “Transformation/Growth/ Opportunity ” conference convened by the Visual Arts Network of South Africa, Hiddingh Hall Campus, UCT, 10 February 2006]

The title for this panel discussion should really be “connecting Africa ”. Certainly “reconnecting Africa ” is misleading if it implies that “ Africa ” was once connected, and that the restoration of this connection is currently on the agenda. A number of commentators, Ali Mazrui and Olu Oguibe (1993) among them, have made observations about the fictiveness of a united Africa, and how the term Africa has historically meant different things to different constituencies. Mazrui has argued that it was in fact western imperialism that inadvertently created the incentive for the notion of pan-Africanism to emerge, and pan-Africanism has been (and continues to be) more of an ideal than a reflection of actual relations between, on one hand, African countries; and on the other, between Africans on the continent and in the diaspora.

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“Not Just Another Biennale”?

Susan Glanville-Zini (CEO of Cape Africa Platform) and Julian Jonker (Coordinator of Sessions Ekapa) in conversation with Mario Pissarra, 28 November 2005, Cape Town

The Cape Africa Platform promises to deliver a mega-event that will be “not just another biennale”. The first major element in their plan is a conference, Sessions Ekapa, which takes place in Cape Town from 6-8 December 2005. The conference theme is “(re)locating contemporary African art” and will be followed with a multi-disciplinary “Manifestation” in 2006.

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