Address by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the Opening of the South African Architectural Exhibition at the 10th Venice Biennale

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07 Sep 2006

South Africa is honoured to have been invited to participate in the 10 th Venice Architectural Biennale. South Africa’s decision to take part in the Biennale is motivated by the desire to promote discussion and dialogue on the transformation of spaces as a means of altering and improving the quality of life o all the people of our country. In particular, we believe that this dialogue will bridge the social and cultural gap between the communities of our young democracy and shape our new national identity based on non-racialism and non-sexism, united in our diversity.

Our participation in the biennale is aimed ultimately at establishing an African presence in this international forum. Our exhibition is a reflection on how South African cities are changing, driven by an awareness of the requirements to integrate formerly segregated spaces and the importance of reclaiming degraded spaces .

The exhibition demonstrates the key issues facing our cities today, ranging from migration and growth to settlement and sustainable development.

Our exhibition is entitled “Between Ownership and Belonging: Transitional Space in the Post-Apartheid Metropolis”. This exhibition is the first ever for a sub-Saharan African country. It focuses on specific sites where a transforming South African urban identity is emerging out of a historic deliberately divided built environment. Urban projects are exhibited to illustrate the transition between “ownership” and “belonging”.

Ownership refers to interventions that contribute to social inclusion and recognition of the citizenship and creative practices of people who were previously disenfranchised. Belonging deals with nation-building and the symbolic representation of the new polity where memory is enlisted as an urban generator.

This exhibition looks at projects that have successfully transcended the unequal and separate development that are part of the legacy South Africa is still experiencing today. Projects exhibited include Constitutional Hill,Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, Metro Mall Precinct, Faraday Precinct; (all in Johannesburg) Struggle Museum, (in Port Elizabeth), Warwick Triangle (in Durban) District 6 and Philipi Transport Interchange, (both in Cape Town).

South Africa has emerged from a system of Apartheid which successfully institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination. The then Apartheid Government successfully implemented a grand separatist socio-spatial environment, whose ramifications we continue to challenge today. The central challenge for the new South Africa is the creation of a humane built environment that transcends this past, focusing in particular on the sustainability, liveability and aesthetics of new patterns of social movement change and settlement.

The importance of these projects that are showcased is that they constitute a formal and symbolic response to the transformation challenges facing our country. Such projects attempt, through the alteration of the built environment, to redefine the spaces of intersection, between past and future, oppression and hope and in so doing contribute to social cohesion and the development of a new dynamic and inclusive identity.

We hope that our participation at this 10 th Venice Architectural Biennale will present the world with images that demonstrate our commitment to sustainable development that puts people first as inhabitants of our urban and rural landscapes.

Once again, on behalf of the South African government, we would like to thank the President of the Venice International Biennale, Dr Davide Croff for inviting South Africa to participate. We hope that South Africa’s participation will open an avenue for future participation of other African countries. The 21 st Century being the African Century, we hope that at the next Biennale, Africa will be afforded an opportunity to have their own pavilion.

A special word of thanks to our Technical Advisory Team EDNET viz. Architect Enrico Dodi, Architect da Augustino and Glen Robbinson for their unwavering support during our struggle against apartheid operating under the banner of “Architects against Apartheid”.

This Exhibition is now officially opened for viewing by the public.

I would now like to introduce the curator for the South African Exhibition, Architect Mphethi Morojele, who will give you an overview of our Exhibition. Architect Morojele was born in Maseru, Lesotho. He started his studies at the University of Cape Town and received his Masters degree in Architecture from the Bartlet Institute of Architecture in London. He lectured at Wits University for six years. He is the Founder member of the MMA Architecture Firm which has offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Some of his projects include the South African Embassy in Berlin, for which he received an Award of Excellence from the South African Institute of Architects, and the South African Embassy in Ethiopia which he is currently working on. He is also working on the Faraday Station Project in Johannesburg. He is one of the Architects for Freedom Park, Cradle of Humankind and other projects in Johannesburg. Without a doubt, Mpheti is one of the best Architects in South Africa and possibly among the best in the world.