Written by Danijela Cook
Over the past week Into the Light, an exhibition curated by the director of David Krut Projects, Ame Bell, opened at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK). The exhibition debuted at the 2022 Venice Biennale comprising three bodies of work by South African artists; Phumulani Ntuli, Lebohang Kganye and Roger Ballen. It’s an immense pleasure to have these works presented on home soil after a successful seven month run at one of the world’s most prestigious art events.
To provide some context, the Venice Biennale is a bi-annual international cultural event – it is the longestest running event of its kind and since its inception in 1895, it has provided the framework for various other global cultural events. It is often referred to as the ‘Olympics of the artworld’ – making it a huge honour for artists and curators alike to showcase themselves on such a celebrated platform. 2022 marked the Biennale’s 59th International Art Exhibition, curated by Cecilia Alemani and titled “The Milk of Dreams”.
Into the Light was South Africa’s contribution to the surrealistically themed international exhibition. The works of Ntuli, Kganye and Ballen encapsulate the themes of identity, historical narratives, isolation, self-discovery and finding the lightness of being. By drawing from their own experiences and psyches, each artist presented their audiences with works that are filled with an energy that is both whimsical and haunting – prompting the viewer to consider our pasts and our present, but more so, to encourage vast acts of imagination towards the creation of our future. With the guidance of Ame Bell’s curation, the exhibition was able to create a cross-cultural conversation that was brought to a global stage. Naturally, the works hold a uniquely South African perspective, making it all the more important for the exhibition to be shared with fellow South Africans at the KKNK.
The KKNK, held each year in Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape, contributes a great deal to the promotion of the arts and culture in South Africa. The festival aims to provide meaningful economic and social contributions to all creative fields by creating a sustainable platform that is accessible to all. This focus on accessibility allows for impactful community engagement, skill sharing and cultural enrichment – all brought to life by the magic of creativity.
It is important that Into the Light and its prevalent themes begin to circulate in local spaces like KKNK as it allows for the inclusion of a vast number of viewers that would otherwise not have been privy to its existence. This is due to the foreign nature of events such as the Biennale. Most importantly perhaps, it allows the artists and curator to share their hard work with the familial audience of their country.
“I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity and support from the KKNK and curator Dineke van der Walt to show highlights from the South African Pavilion on home soil. Experiencing the excitement of the visitors around being able to see the exhibition as well as witnessing their thoughtful engagement with the work was exhilarating. This instilled a greater sense of achievement and purpose in the fact that we were able to make the South African audience a part of participating and responding to the exhibitions of the artists representing our country internationally.” – Ame Bell.
The exhibition ran from the 1st-9th of April at the Prince Vincent Gallery, it was free for all visitors. To conclude a fabulous experience, Lebohang Kganye’s exhibition was nominated for a KANNA award for best visual presentation at the festival. Congratulations to Ame, Phumulani, Lebohang, Roger and Dineke!