Discovering Venice Biennale 2017: Kenya Pavilion | Another Country
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and the Arts of the Republic of Kenya proudly announces its participation at the 57th Venice Biennale with the exhibition Another Country comprising of works by five contemporary artists.
Another Country is a title taken from James Baldwin‘s 1961 novel narrating a crucial year in the lives of its 8 major characters. The story is an intensely long and passionate narrative – born out of intensity and compassion – urging attention, bringing to the fore timeless questions that demand explanations from a society that seems to insist that thereis no hope. In this other country, social barriers within a raptured society are slashed away; the complexities of love and antipathy are mercilessly explored. The power of antagonisms is communicated with terrifying force, and what remains are the truths and the realities of human experience stretched to its limits.
The Kenya Pavilion partners with Zuecca Projects, a local cultural organisation in merging cultural boundaries through exchange and educational practice. The aleatoric choice of the exhibition venue is Scuola Palladio Giudecca, a Kinder Garden and Middle School in the island of Giudecca, which is slowly shrinking in attendance due to the city’s accelerated de-Population. Kindergarden and middle school provide the fundamental building blocks upon which societies are created.
The Giudecca area, where the school is located, is the remaining stronghold for local Venetians. It is associated with popular housing, and remains unaffected by the mass tourism, which is affecting the social fabric of the city. The artistic practice that will emerge between the interactions of the students, the community around them and the participating artists will result in a shared learning experience that will be presented later in the fall.
The initial period of the exhibition is that of exchange and mediation, through which ideas for new site specific work will be developed and delivered by the closing of the Biennale in November. In the following months, the occurrence of the biennale provides an opportunity for the five Kenyan artists to engage with the multiple faces of Venice, while engaging in an educational and public program with the students of the Scuola and residents of Giudecca.
The biennale period will offer the opportunity for host and guest to talk, learn, exchange and together reflect on their complex realities while developing site-specific projects that highlight and consider strategies of education, restoration and rejuvenation through art.
This initiative is possibly/hopefully the beginning, and based on deep multidisciplinary approaches to collaboration and cross-cultural dialogue between artists, students and the community.
Catalogue: At the end of the program, in November 2017, a publication of the representation of Kenya at the 57th Venice Biennale, Another Country, will be released.
The Kenya participation at the 57th Venice Biennale is realized on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and the Arts of the Republic of Kenya.
Officially Supported by Zuecca Projects and Hausbrandt.
The project is also realized with further support from: The Lamu Factory Project, One-Off Gallery – Nairobi, Ambiente, Mr. Simon Njami and Mr. Johannes Lehmann.
Arlene Wandera (b.1981, Nairobi) holds a BA in Fine Art from The Slade School of Fine Art, London. She works with multiple mediums, including sculpture, installation, performance and image making – mainly constructed using common, discarded and forgotten materials. Her work is driven by her experiences, exploring her childhood memories, complex interactions and notions of identity. The antagonism between Wandera’s heritage and present also informs much her production process, woven into subtle and poignant narratives.
Mwangi and Hutter were born in Nairobi, Kenya and Ludwigshafen, Germany. They merged their names and biographies and became a single artist – Mwangi Hutter. Working with video, sound, photography, installation, sculpture, painting and performance, they use themselves as the sounding board to reflect on changing societal realities, creating an aesthetics of self-knowledge and interrelationship.
Paul Onditi (b. 1980, ) studied art at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Germany. His paintings explore richly layered images through the use of highly experimental, labour intensive techniques. Filmstrips, prints, transferred images, pared down layers of pigment, caustic acid and thin layers of oil paint are patched together to visualize an imaginative world that unpacks chaos, divisions, tensions and nuances of urban and contemporary existence.
Peterson Kamwathi (b. 1981, Nairobi) studied animationat Shang Tao Media Arts College in Nairobi. Hisworks are highly conceptual, with the thematic focusrooted in the Kenyan contemporary context, exploringthe place, role, symbolism and meaning of processions and groupings within contemporary ceremonies andpolitical protocol.
Richard Kimanthi (b. 1971, Nyeri, Kenya) has a Diploma in Graphic Design from the Nairobi Creative Art Centre. His practice as a painter is one of austerity and honesty – from the application of color, the compositions and the themes of his paintings, which take the forms of simple narratives, propelled with profound philosophical depth and of humor – elements that simplify complex conversations and dissipate the politico-sensational intercourse of contemporary dialogue.
Images courtesy of Zuecca Projects