SOUTH AFRICA’S ON THE 54TH VENICE BIENNALE 2011

Panga Management is thrilled ( as in goddam happy ) and confused ( as in how did that happen)  regarding South Africa’s pavilion on the 54th Venice biennale in 2011. SA has the artists/talents to kick every other countries ass at the biennale, no doubt there. But that is not what’s confusing PM. So let’s start with a point of clarity. PM does not wish to disrespect the artists or curators but might through default. Yes, PM does not particularly like the contributions of a couple of the artists selected that however, is irrelevant to this discussion as even the ones PM does not respect from the “good contemporary artists” perspective, are enjoyed from the “easy to flog to the market” perspective , and hence have a place. If you wish to read the press release about SA’s inclusion click here from the South African Art Times courtesy of the biennale website

PM feels it important to note that International pavilion curator Bice Curiger has selected SA artists David Goldblatt and Nicholas Hlobo, and Costa Rican curators Francesco Elisei and Dino Leoni have included South Africa Artist Gavin Rain in their national pavilion.  These details are not in the above linked press release.

Okay so back to the South African pavilion ; Zwelethu Mthethwa, Mary Sibande, Siemon Allen, Lyndi Sales Curated by Thembinkosi Goniwe and Commissioned by Lethole Mokoena. So this is where PM gets confused and concerned, who is Lethole Mokoena ? obviously somebody from the NAC board as confirmed here Lethole Mokoena is Mr Isaac Lethole Monna Mokoena   interviewed by National Arts Council Board on the 7,8.9th December 2010, and we can only assume as the Commissioner of the curator of the VB, that he did well in his interview .  PM has cut and pasted the below from the previous mentioned NAC link as it should be remembered going forward.

“In the spirit of transparency and good corporate governance, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile invites members of the media and public to attend the National Arts Council Board selection interviews. The interviews started on 07 and will continue until 09 December 2010.The National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC), formed in 1997, is a statutory public entity with the Minister of Arts and Culture as its Executive Authority. The institution is subject to a governance framework that includes the NAC Act (1997) and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) amongst others. The NAC is governed by a Council whose members are appointed by the Minister of Arts and Culture after a process of public nominations.  The NAC plays a strategic role in our effort to realize our vision and mission of developing a sustainable sector. Therefore, the selection of the board is a welcome development for the institution and the arts, culture, and heritage sector at large.”

Now this sounds all super and everything , but in the spirit of transparency and good corporate governance, who is Mr Isaac Lethole Monna Mokoena? Maybe PM is going out on a limb here but he can only be Monna Mokoena owner of gallery MOMO click here for website

And here’s where PM starts to feel uncomfortable. Monna Mokoena is a respected and dynamic player in the visual arts sector for sure, but that is besides the point . Lets recap Lethole Mokoena AKA Monna Mokoena commissions Thembinkosi Goniwe to curate the South African pavilion at the VB and then Thembinkosi Goniwe curates two of the four selected artists onto the exhibition (Lyndi Sales, Mary Sibande) both from Monna’s stable of artists. Hmmmm….. this is only going to be really good for Monna’s bank balance in the  short and long run. You don’t have to be the brightest crayon in the box or the sharpest tool in the shed to see that this is very unethical, and in the spirit of transparency and good corporate governance one has to ask why and how this blatant conflict of interests could be allowed. Now maybe PM is wrong and Lethole Mokoena is not Monna Mokena, and PM will be quite pleased if they are not the same person, but if they are, this is very very problematic. Even Zimbabwe  included in this year’s biennale click here has a Commissioner independent from commercial market conflict of interests; Doreen Sibanda ( and Zimbabwe is not exactly high on the scale of corruption free countries) . What makes it all a lot more suspicious is that her profile is spelled out loud and clear everywhere . However If you Google Lethole Mokoena’s profile you find jack shit, besides off course the NAC interviews mentioned above. Could this be a conscious decision by Monna Mokoena to conceal a very problematic conflict of interests from the visual arts sector?  PM does not want to “ground and pound” Monna Mokoena, as he has been worthy of respect in the past and PM hope’s he still is. So will somebody clear this up for PM; is Lethole Mokoena the same man as Monna Mokoena? If he is why would he place himself in a position the screams unethical behavior like a Santon trannie at a Channel sale? And why would the NAC place the South African artists selected in a position that suggests that they were selected not because they were the best choices, but because they are in the MOMO stable? And surely the NAC wants to believe without a shadow of a doubt that these choices are the best ones to represent South Africa at the Biennale? PM is not convinced!

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7 Responses to SOUTH AFRICA’S ON THE 54TH VENICE BIENNALE 2011

  1. malcolm says:

    In my humble opinion the following:

    News of South Africa’s participation in this year’s Venice Biennale was unexpectedly announced via Venice Biennale press releases. This is unusual. Notification of national participation in such an important global event is the duty in our case, of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). No such notification appears on their website and no official press release by the Minister is forthcoming.

    A number of enquiries for clarification have been directed to the department including my own without response. I conclude the Minister; his office and official’s silence on the matter means the following:

    1. That zero curatorial sense can be made of the project and is therefore an embarrassment to the DAC. See (http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/exhibition/first-time/south-africa.html)
    2. That the DAC is embarrassed that an open nation wide competition for curatorial proposals was not called for.
    3. That the DAC is embarrassed that a commercial art dealer (Monna Mokoena Gallery MOMO) with blatant vested interests is appointed Commissioner under these circumstances.
    4. That the DAC is embarrassed that said commercial dealer is sending two artists in his gallery stable to represent this country.

    The above would never be permitted by any of the exhibiting countries. A cursory web search proves this.

    Perhaps the Minister is aware his unprincipled appointment of a commercial art dealer as commissioner and the subsequent commissioner’s appointment of a tame curator (Thembinkosi Goniwe) to administer the project, is flawed.

    Without suggesting the process of selection is heavily tinged with corruption it is certainly opaque: hence the Ministers silence.

    Emeritus Professor Malcolm Payne
    Cape Town

  2. It has made the front page of Cape Times today the 15th April 2011.

    http://www.capetimes.co.za/

    But PM is not impressed.
    Nobody is asking the right questions.
    PM is just a humble mother fucker with a big-ass dick, but really journalists you got to do better that this !
    there is so much stuff to unearth here, how about you follow the money side of the story and investigate a little bit furthur than a few easy to get “cut and paste” quotes.

    Does PM have to spell this out?
    Where is Sean O “mnipresent” Toole, PM wants to see a real journalist on this story !

  3. Pitso TSO Chinzima says:

    May I be allowed to use my nicname TSO and not be questioned for doing so. I appreciate the fact that the 2011 VB ( with reference to the sa pavillion) has been able to spark debate as indicated in most of the write ups related to this event.

    Before my 15 minutes access to the net is up and the Nigerian owner of the internet cafe where I am writing this comment throws me out, let me hasten to say that it very clear and it also does not need bright crayon in the box that the whole furore is directed at black people in leadership. I repeat BLACK PEOPLE IN LEADERSHIP. I mention this with pride and with fear or favour. Look, we are not blind folded anymore. We know that there is a concerted effort to pull him down. I do nopt want to concern myself with the commissioners identity here. What matters to me is the fact that I hope that monna Mokoena is really that Lethole. By the way I grew up with Monna in Diepkloof Zone 6 Soweto and we used to call him Monna even when he was behind the counter of his father’s successful shop. I mention this to bring to the attention of those who care to know that, MONNA grew up in a business environment and it just not amazing him to see him succeed in his business ventures including the VB event if he is the man under siege. The poor Lethole here is just being used as a step towards a systematic attack on the ANC (not NAC) government and those who are doing business with it. This whole saga to is just like saying CAN TITO MBOWENI RUN THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND? In my world I would answer as though I am facing death in the eyes and say YES. The issue to me is just utter disrepected that is directed to you black people who are really makinf things happen. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CALL ME A RACIST. WE HAVE LONG BEEN DECLARED PERSON NON GRATAS ANYMWAY.

    OPEN LETTER TO MONNA.

    Mr. Mokoena and your team, just know that there is truth in the old saying that CHANGE IS PAIN. If that is not enough please listen to Mzwake Mbuli’s album of the same title to get more details. This is the time when you begin to decode who in your camp is out get you and who is out to protect you. Now I believe in comrade J. Malema’s saying that in politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. The same principle applies in real life as well. You guys are facing that reality now.I hope you guys are old enough to be able to pass this phase in your lives without permanent scars. This thing will come and it will go but history will have been made in the process. I was forced to learn about others in history of art and I do not wish that for my son Thuto. The fact that you are friends with people in high places as speculated by anti- revolutionaries should not disallow you from leading development in this country. I wish you guys all the best of luck and I am speaking on behalf of all the other comrades out there.

    HAMBA KAHLE MY CHIEF

    I THANK YOU

    • Anonymous says:

      my man, eish!
      we must be very careful of hinding behing “IS IT BECAUSE I”M BLACK” phenomenon:
      is it because we are black that we are exempted from say justice, transparency, criticism??
      is it because we are black that we will justify, protect, and support other balck brothers even when they are say…CORRUPT?
      is it because we are black that most AFRICAN countries are poverty stricken while our LEADERS live lavishly??
      I do not thank you.

  4. Pingback: Massive Links! False Identities | Hidden Paintings | Enormous Hunks of Rock and the Men that Move Them

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