Biennale brings about a different approach ?

I see the biennale as a facilitator, which enables cross – pollination across cultures. The ability to have this position makes the biennale the core of where societal transformation can take place. But this is possible when the biennale sets at its core the importance of societal realities and its urgencies. For me, biennials have the power through artists to advance culture and civilization by provoking thought, introspection and discussion – which in turn leads to change.

With art as the core of this take off point – begs the reflection of the role art and artists play in the process of change and in this case, within the context of Yango and of Congo. It at the same time begs the reflection of the position of the biennale in facilitating the process of reflection, in engaging diverse audiences with different art forms and fostering a meaningful discourse.

As the curator of the first edition of Yango biennale, I am challenged with the task of curating Yango biennale in a different way - this being the criteria Society Mutotu emphasized to be of great importance.

For Society Mutotu, biennales today do not make any difference in addressing current realities and or aiding the development of cultural industries. My curatorial approach of Yango Biennale is thus centered around this thinking process. My choice of artists and approach is an attempt at realising a biennale that can address the current realities of Congo and hopefully contribute to the development of a cultural industry.

In order to realise this – and Go Forward, addressing the Congolese crisis is crucial as a starting point of Yango Biennale. Yango biennale will therefore take the position of a mirror that will reflect the reality of Congo – in order to give its people the opportunity to reflect on their reality and begin a dialogue around the societal and environmental issues Congo is facing.

With a very rich cultural history and abundance in natural resources, Congo is one of the most culturally diverse countries in Africa with about 450 different tribes, languages, arts and cultures. Presented to the world as one of the most important countries for the maintenance of environmental balance and biodiversity on the planet, the DRC is a true source of inspiration and a well of ideas and concepts for creators and people worldwide.
This particular characteristic of Congo is also the centre of all its misfortunes, the contrast between a natural paradise and at the same times a hell for its people. Out of the vision of the Biennale this year, the artists are challenged to analyse, internalize, interpret and question the reality of Congo within the theme, including its history, its wealth and its future in relation to the world.

Since Congo is one of the most important countries for the maintenance of environmental balance and biodiversity on the planet, the urgency to address the Congolese crisis and its current realities is therefore not only a matter for the Congolese people. It is with this in mind that the selected artists come from across the globe, so as to engage in the dialogue regarding the crisis in Congo from different perspectives. And most importantly due to the fact that the Congolese challenges have a huge impact not only for Congo but also on the world and the maintenance of environmental balance and biodiversity of our planet.

The participating artists will therefore respond to this reality and question the role of the Congolese people and that of the world in addressing these issues. Since the biennale is a facilitator of intellectual activity, creativity and critical reflection, it can through art and artists, help us organize our world – as art is one means by which we understand our society and culture, and the society and cultures of others.

With this in mind, the point of departure will therefore be centered around sharing of knowledge across cultures and will address the - “Now and Urban and Natural Environment in relation to Going forward”.

The “Now and Urban and Natural Environment in relation to Going forward”, refers to the current situation of DR Congo – from its history. By beginning in the past, we seek to unearth the impact Congo’s historical trajectories have on Congo’s current crisis and its Urban and Natural Environment. How can the people of Congo Go Forward from the Now? What impact does the current reality of Congo have on the development and future of the country in relation to the world.
The invited artists are asked to respond to the theme: ‘Going Forward’ within the context of Congo. I equally invite the general public, educational institutions, policy makers, the government and international community to engage in a dialogue with the works produced by the artists and to also reflect on them by beginning with Congo’s history, to the current crisis, towards ‘Going forward’.

“Avancer” Going forward – thus assumes the position of change, of moving from the now, its a call to advancement.

Since Going forward – assumes the position of change and that of advancement, realising this requires ‘Ubuntu’ (meaning the essence of being human) and the engagement of all, in re-shaping the future of Congo. In ‘Going Forward’ - I propose the take off point to be based on Ubuntu. The Zulu filosophy of Ubuntu - is about acknowledging the interconnectedness of all humanity and nature. Ubuntu embodies all the invaluable virtues that society strives for towards maintaining harmony and the spirit of sharing among its members.

Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu – meaning (to be human is due to other human beings – literally translates “ I am because you are”.
Umuntu Ngubuntu Ngabantu – taken from Ubuntu and being the opposite of individualism means that “ the existence of one is due to the existence of all”
By putting Ubuntu at the core and take off point of Going Forward, aids in giving diverse and critical voices a platform to be heard. In this process there is great need for the voices of women as well. To which when looking at the visual arts foundation across the globe – there are few women voices in general and even more so in the African continent and worse in the Congo. Going forward is thus not possible without the recognition and acceptance of women as vital contributors to societal development.

This recognition and acceptance will in turn facilitate fruitful dialogue that will empower the people of Congo. Through this, the people of Congo can move away from what is now a hell for its people to the re-building of their country - whose success is crucial not only for the Congo but also for the maintenance of environmental balance and biodiversity of our planet

By addressing all these elements, the intention is that Yango biennale can through the exhibition create the possibility for public participation and enable the transmission of knowledge in order to facilitate a critical reflection around social issues in this country. And that through these reflections and dialogue, answers may begin to unfold on how to go forward.

Furthermore - I aim through this curatorial approach, to give attention to the value and impact of cross-cultural exchange in developing a strong cultural industry. It is my hope that through this approach, a strong Congolese cultural industry will emerge, that in turn will strengthen the Congolese Culture and its Cultural Heritage.

When looking at cultural production within the African continent - countries that give testament to the value of investing in culture as the core of development are;
Nigeria that invested in cinema, resulting in cinema becoming the country’s second resource of financial income after oil revenues and Senegal for their pioneering role in the organization of the «Dakart biennale» which plays a major role in profiling contemporary art from across the continent world-wide.

The engagement of these countries among others in strongly supporting culture for the development of their countries, aids its people in having a communal / collective responsibility in facing the socio-economic issues of the country.

It at the same time enables the development of the culture industries while safe guarding and nurturing artistic expression and preserving cultural heritage.

It is my hope that Ubuntu can inspire a different take off point for Going Forward.

Sithabile Mlotshwa

Curator