Performa announces its fall 2016 gala, Beloved Country, to honor acclaimed curator, museum director and writer Okwui Enwezor. The special celebration will take place on November 1, 2016 in New York City and will pay tribute to the rich history and power of the visual arts and performance in South Africa.
In advance of this occasion, Performa announces its curatorial investigation and research program focused on Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and South Africa which will serve as one of the major components of the Performa 17 biennial. Beloved Country is co-chaired by Richard Chang, Wendy Fisher, Rashid Johnson, Toby Devan Lewis, Shirin Neshat, and Cindy Sherman.
The evening will celebrate visionary individuals who have a special relationship to South Africa and New York with a spotlight on honoree Okwui Enwezor for his leadership in bringing world attention to the critical role played by South African artists, photographers, journalists and writers in articulating and making visible decades of political turmoil alongside the extraordinary vitality and humanism of the South African people. Performa recognizes Enwezor for his contributions in this light, from his 1996 exhibition In/Sight: African Photographers, 1940 to the Present featuring 30 African photographers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; to the 2nd edition of the Johannesburg Biennial in 1997 during which he brought many remarkable artists and curators from around the world to South Africa for the first time and focused on the powerful work being made within the country; to The Rise and Fall of Apartheid, an exhibition at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in 2013. Performa also recognizes Enwezor’s important contribution to the history of contemporary art with his curatorship of Documenta 11 in 2002 and the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015.
Okwui Enwezor comments, “I am thrilled and honored that Performa has chosen me as the honoree…I am pleased the evening is connected to South Africa, a country that means so much to me and which I hold very dear. I am all the more excited to be honored by Performa which has changed the landscape for fearless and groundbreaking programming and presentation of performance.“
Performa will highlight South African artists this fall with Beloved Country while simultaneously foreshadowing the wider lens through which the Performa 17 biennial will examine work in select regions of the continent including South Africa, Kenya, Senegal, and Morocco with new Performa Commissions. Beloved Country will be realized in collaboration with the South African artist Athi-Patra Ruga who will create a new performance for the gala.
Director and Chief Curator of Performa, RoseLee Goldberg comments, “We are delighted to celebrate Okwui Enwezor and his contributions in bringing South African artists to the international forefront. Having grown up in South Africa, I know that the diversity of the country and conversion of so many voices and movements had a profound impact on me and I think subconsciously served as the earliest impetus behind the multi-disciplinary nature of Performa. This year’s gala will celebrate the bold and sophisticated culture of experimentation within South Africa and will be just the tip of the iceberg explored by Performa 17, which will delve into other radical visual and performance cultures throughout the continent.”
Since 2005 Performa has supported work by South African artists across disciplines of visual art, dance, film, and music. Past Performa Commissions and Premieres received by South African artists include: Bernie Searle (Performa 05) organized in tandem with the Museum of African Art, Candice Breitz (Performa 09), William Kentridge (Performa 09), Athi-Patra Ruga (Performa 11), Chimurenga (Performa 15), and Robin Rhode (Performa 15). Guest speakers and contributors to the Performa Institute and publications have included: Sue Williamson, Artist and Writer, and Gabi Ngcobo, Founder and Director of the Center for Historical Reenactments.
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