What is a Triennale - and why is Stellenbosch hosting one?

2019-03-01 16:30 - Marisa Crous
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You might previously heard of a biennale.

"...a critical site of experimentation in exhibition-making, offering artists, curators, and spectators a vital alternative to museums and other similar institutions whose institutional inertias do not allow them to respond with immediacy and flexibility to contemporary art's development." - Filipovic, van Hal, and Ovstebo 2010.

A Triennale, lives and thrives by the same concept. However, it's instituted every three years. 

PICS: Old-world charm meets contemporary luxury on this Stellenbosch farm 

This week, on the eve of this year’s much-anticipated Woordfees, the official unveiling of the 2020 Triennale took place in Stellenbosch.

Introduced by the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust (SOST), Khanyisile Mbongwa will be the Chief Curator of the Triennale, while Rashieda Witter will act as the researcher of the Triennale. 

The SOST has been bringing annual public art exhibitions to Stellenbosch since 2012. More than 150 works of outdoor art have been placed around the town for everyone to enjoy; over 80 artists have participated and over 3000 school children have engaged with the art on learning excursions. The Trust believes the time is right to take public art in Stellenbosch to the next level, joining cities around the world in hosting what is considered the pinnacle of art exhibitions – a biennale or in this case, a Triennale.  


(For the next two months you'll see this art by Ugandan artist, Helen Nabukenya, hanging at 116 Voorgelegen in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch.  PHOTO: Marisa Crous)  


 (PHOTO: Marisa Crous) 


(Khanyisile Mbongwa, Chief Curator of the Stellenbosch Triennale, PHOTO: Marisa Crous)


(PHOTOS: Supplied) 

Why Stellenbosch? 

The answer: Why not? 

South Africa and Stellenbosch, in particular, needs to look towards the continent, tapping into the creativity reverberating across African borders. Within a context of decolonial debates, South African society is forever grappling with questions of transformation. The Triennale wants to see what art can do, how it can be featured within this debate.

How can it change us in a way that transcends time - especially when we consider the intersectionality of time. A challenge of renewal through art, here, in a town so often associated with the white and the colonial. 

The Triennale is partnering with all other prominent names in the art world – Cape Town Art Fair, Norval Foundation, Zeitz MOCAA, Woordfees, just to name a few.  

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