‘The Milk of Dreams’: African and Diaspora Artists Become More Prominent at the Venice Biennale

‘The Milk of Dreams’, the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia officially opened to the public on Saturday, April 23 after an opening ceremony and awards presentation at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of La Biennale di Venezia. 

Sonia Boyce
Sonia Boyce for Great Britain Pavilion, Golden Lion for Best National Participation. Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy of La Biennale

The international program, accompanied by national and collateral exhibitions, features 213 artists from 58 countries. More than 180 of these artists have never had their work in the International Art Exhibition until now and for the first time in its 127-year history, the Biennale includes a majority of women and gender non-conforming artists, and 80 new projects were conceived specifically for this exhibition. 

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Curated by Cecilia Alemani, ‘The Milk of Dreams’, is a reawakening of Surrealists’ brew. The title comes from a book of fantastical writing and illustrations by the same name by the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (1917–2011), in which she describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination. It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else; a world set free, brimming with possibilities. Looking at the invited international artists and artists showing at the different pavilions, the diverse representations and the recipients of this year’s Golden Lions, one gets a glimpse of the new possibilities Alemani hopes for in the world, particularly, people that should be more visible and recognised in the art world. 

Simone Leigh,
Simone Leigh, Golden Lion for Best Participant, 59th Venice Art Biennale. Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CcswrCAuEgH/

Uganda Pavilion, Special Mention. Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy La Biennale di Venezia
Uganda Pavilion, Special Mention for National Participations. Photo by Andrea Avezzù, courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

This year’s top prizes were presented to two phenomenal Black women artists: Simone Leigh received the Golden Lion for the Best Participant and Sonia Boyce received the Golden Lion for Best National Participation on behalf of Great Britain. Uganda, a country participating for the first time, received a Special Mention for National Participation. Two other women, German artist Katharina Fritsch and the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, won the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement. The jury for this year’s awards was led by Adrienne Edwards and included Lorenzo Giusti, Julieta González, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and Susanne Pfeffer.

Though the presence and recognition of African and diaspora artists at the Venice Biennale is not new, it is still not the norm there and on the world stage. Thus, we salute the uniqueness of this moment, especially regarding Black women artists. 

Below is a representative selection of works by artists from Africa and the diaspora currently showing in the international and national exhibitions. Photos by Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine. 

 

Simone Leigh – International Exhibition and the US Pavilion

African and Diaspora Artists - Installation view of 'Brick House' by Simone Leigh. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Installation view of ‘Brick House’ by Simone Leigh. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Installation view of 'Façade' (2022) by Simone Leigh. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Installation view of ‘Façade’ (2022) by Simone Leigh. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Kudzanai-Violet Hwami – International Exhibition

African and Diaspora Artists - Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Installation view of different works by Kudzanai-Violet Hwami. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Uganda Pavilion – Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo

African and Diaspora Artists - Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of "RADIANCE: They dream In Time" curated by Shaheen Merali. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of “RADIANCE: They dream In Time” curated by Shaheen Merali. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

African and Diaspora Artists - Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of "RADIANCE: They dream In Time" curated by Shaheen Merali. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of “RADIANCE: They dream In Time” curated by Shaheen Merali, (Work by Collin Sekajugo). Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of "RADIANCE: They dream In Time" curated by Shaheen Merali. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of “RADIANCE: They dream In Time” curated by Shaheen Merali. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

African and Diaspora Artists - Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of "RADIANCE: They dream In Time" curated by Shaheen Merali (In view: Work by Acaye Kerunen). Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Uganda Pavilion, Installation view of “RADIANCE: They dream In Time” curated by Shaheen Merali (Work by Acaye Kerunen). Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Portia Zvavahera -International Exhibition

 Portia Zvavahera, Installation view of various works from 2022. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Portia Zvavahera, Installation view of various works from 2022. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Akosua Adoma Owusu – International Exhibition

African and Diaspora Artists -Installation view: Akosua Adoma Owusu, 'Kwaku Ananse' (video still), 2013, video - 25 min 51 sec. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine 
Installation view: Akosua Adoma Owusu, ‘Kwaku Ananse’ (video still), 2013, video – 25 min 51 sec. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Installation view: Akosua Adoma Owusu, 'Kwaku Ananse' (video still), 2013, video - 25 min 51 sec. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine 
Installation view: Akosua Adoma Owusu, ‘Kwaku Ananse’ (video still), 2013, video – 25 min 51 sec. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Ghana Pavilion – Na Chainkua Reindorf, Isaac Nana Opoku (Afroscope) and Diego Araúja

African and Diaspora Artists - Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of "Black Star - The Museum as Freedom" curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of “Black Star – The Museum as Freedom” curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of "Black Star - The Museum as Freedom" curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of “Black Star – The Museum as Freedom” curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of "Black Star - The Museum as Freedom" curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of “Black Star – The Museum as Freedom” curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

 Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of "Black Star - The Museum as Freedom" curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Ghana Pavilion, Installation view of “Black Star – The Museum as Freedom” curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Bronwyn Katz – International Exhibition

Installation detail: Bronwyn Katz, 'Gõegõe', 2022, salvaged bedsprings, wire, pot scourers, spirits of salt and rust. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine 
Installation detail: Bronwyn Katz, ‘Gõegõe’, 2022, salvaged bedsprings, wire, pot scourers, spirits of salt and rust. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Installation view: Bronwyn Katz, 'Gõegõe', 2022, salvaged bedsprings, wire, pot scourers, spirits of salt and rust. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine 
Installation view: Bronwyn Katz, ‘Gõegõe’, 2022, salvaged bedsprings, wire, pot scourers, spirits of salt and rust. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Sandra Mujinga – International Exhibition

Sandra Mujinga, "Reworlding Remains, 2021, installation. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Sandra Mujinga, “Reworlding Remains, 2021, installation. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Sandra Mujinga, 'Sentinels of Change', 2021, installation. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Sandra Mujinga, ‘Sentinels of Change’, 2021, installation. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Zimbabwe Pavilion – Wallen Mapondera, Ronald Muchatuta, Kresiah Mukwazhi, Terrence Musekiwa

 Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of "I did not leave a sign?" curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of “I did not leave a sign?” curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

 Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of "I did not leave a sign?" curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of “I did not leave a sign?” curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of "I did not leave a sign?" curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
Zimbabwe Pavilion, Installation view of “I did not leave a sign?” curated by Fadzai Veronica Muchemwa. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

South Africa PavilionRoger Ballen, Lebohang Kganye, Phumulani Ntuli

South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of "Into the Light" curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of “Into the Light” curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

African and Diaspora Artists - South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of "Into the Light" curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of “Into the Light” curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

African and Diaspora Artists - South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of "Into the Light" curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine
South Africa Pavilion, Installation view of “Into the Light” curated by Amé Bell. Photo credit: Adéọlá Ọlágúnjú for TSA Art Magazine

The Biennale is on view until November 27, 2022, at the Giardini and the Arsenale. 

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