Media Statement by the Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture on South Africa’s Participation at the Venice Biennale

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25 Aug 2006

“Positioning African cities as part of the World Architectural Landscape.”

The South African Departments of Arts and Culture, Foreign Affairs and the South African Heritage Resource Agency are 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 people’s lives. In particular, it is anticipated that this dialogue will bridge the cultural gap between the communities of our young democracy

Our participation in the biennale is aimed ultimately at establishing an African presence in this international forum, starting with South Africa. Our exhibition will be 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 takes place from 6 September 19 November and will demonstrate the key issues facing cities today, ranging from migration and growth to settlement and sustainable development. It will examine the role of architects and other professionals in the built environment disciplines in creating humane urban environments, in relation to policymaking, governance and social cohesion.

This uniquely South African Exhibition will be entitled “Between Ownership and Belonging: Transformation in the Post-Apartheid City”. This exhibition, the first ever for a sub-Saharan African country, will focus on specific sites where a transforming South African urban identity is emerging out of a historic deliberately divided built environment. Urban projects will be exhibited that illustrate the transition between “ownership” and “belonging”.

To briefly elaborate, Ownership refers to interventions that contribute to social inclusion and recognition of the citizenship and creative practices of the 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 will look 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). The exhibition will be augmented by other cultural readings (art, film, academic texts etc.) of the specific sites and of South African urban regeneration in general.

Of note will be activities scheduled for 7 September that will focus on South Africa under the sub-theme: South African Night. The curator for South Africa is Architect Mphethi Morojele.

As is familiar to most, the Apartheid system 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 to be 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 a new dynamic and inclusive identity.

We are confident that our participation at the Venice 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. It will also demonstrate our dedication to ensuring the equitable distribution of available resources. The 21 st Century is indeed the African Century, as declared by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Issued by Ms Ntombazana Botha, MP
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture

Enquiries : Mack Lewele 082 450 5076/012 441 3083