Venice Biennale Italy

Ten newcomers plant their flags

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré Peace for Cote d'ivoire drawing foto kakaye madjom

The most hotly anticipated of the first-time national participants is the Vatican pavilion, an idea first mooted in 2009, but fittingly happening in this year of papal change. But nine other nations make their Biennale debuts this year alongside the Holy See.

Like Venice, the island nations of the Maldives and Tuvalu are under the constant threat of being submerged by the sea. This precarious reality underpins both the Taiwanese artist Vincent Huang’s “Destiny Intertwined” exhibition for the Tuvalu pavilion, and the Maldivian pavilion’s “Portable Nation” group show. Tavares Strachan’s installation for the Bahamas aims to momentarily unite the Arsenale with downtown Nassau and the North Pole, while Petrit Halilaj, who represents Kosovo, creates works shaped by his itinerant existence since being forced to flee his war-torn home at the age of 13.

The Kuwaiti pavilion looks back to the sculptures of Sami Mohammed that became symbols of Kuwaiti national identity following the country’s independence in 1961. Bahrain has chosen three artists who deal with contemporary Islamic identity and culture in Mariam Haji, Waheeda Malullah and Camille Zakharia.

The Ivory Coast is hoping to raise the profile of its contemporary artists. The country’s pavilion will feature work by four artists, including drawings by the self-taught artist Frédéric Bruly Bouabré (see photo), the founder of his own religion and inventor of his own alphabet. Fellow west African nation, Angola, also makes its debut with the exhibition “Luanda Encyclopaedic City”, a collaboration between the architectural research collective, Beyond Entropy, and the Luanda-based photographer Edson Chagas.

Having previously been represented in the Italian–Latin American Pavilion, Paraguay unveils its own pavilion, showing four contemporary artists.

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