Speech by Paul Mashatile on occasion of the opening of South African Pavilion At the 55th Venice Biennale

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31 May 2013

Director of Ceremonies

Our partners, the National Arts Festival whom we have appointed to curate and stage this exhibition
 
Our artists
 
Guests
 
Members of the media
 
Ladies and Gentlemen:
 
As South Africa we are proud to be back again at this year’s Venice Biennale; the Olympics of the art world.
 
As we promised when we were here two years ago, we have this time brought a much bigger exhibition.
 
We are satisfied that, once again, we have brought to the Biennale some of the finest artists and visual art works our country has to offer.
 
We are also delighted to announce that we have secured a permanent exhibition space for South Africa at this premier art fair.
 
This not only signifies our long-term commitment to the Biennale but is also part of our ongoing efforts to showcases our country’s rich and diverse artistic talent on major world stages.
 
We are doing this because we believe that South African art and artists can hold their own against the best in the world.
 
Our presence at the Biennale is part of our overall commitment to give exposure to our artists; opening up opportunities for them to access new markets for their works.
 
By strengthening trade in artistic goods and services; we ensure the sustainability of our sector and enhance its contribution to the national effort to create jobs and grow our economy.
 
I take this opportunity to thank officials in my Department for the work they have done to secure South Africa’s participation at the Venice Biennale.
 
We also thank the National Arts Festival for working with us on this project and for bringing their passion, energy and expertise to this important event.
 
This year our exhibition is titled “Imaginary Fact; Contemporary South African Art and the Archive.”
 
It showcases artists who use materials of the past to comment on the contemporary.
 
It is about the protection and preservation of our national heritage and the symbols and artifacts of that heritage. 
 
But it is also about using the arts to question and challenge our reading of the past, to reach a new understanding of it and to craft a new and inclusive narrative for our country.
 
The voices contained in this exhibition are as rich and varied as those of the citizens of our beautiful land.
 
They are bold and they are brave!
 
Some are already celebrated internationally some are beginning to make their voices heard.
 
All are immensely talented and, as a nation, we are proud of them and of the opportunity to showcase them to the world.
 
We have brought a total of 17 of our finest artists to this year’s Venice Biennale.
 
We take this opportunity to wish you all the best.

In you, we have worthy Ambassadors of South African visual arts.
 
I have no doubt that you will continue to fly the South Africa flag high.

It is my honour to declare the South African Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale officially opened.
 
Thank you.