… The Biennale itself goes under the collective title of 'Trade Routes: History and Geography' and consists of six exhibitions, four in Johannesburg and two in Cape Town. The Johannesburg ones were 'Alternating Currents', co-curated by Enwezor and Octavia Zaya, at the Electric Workshop; 'Important and Exportant', curated by Gerardo Mosquera, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery; 'Hong Kong etc' curated by Hou Hanru, at the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Gallery, Market Theatre Precinct; and 'Transversions', curated by Yu Yeon Kim, at MuseumAfrica (sic). The Cape Town exhibitions were 'Graft', curated by Colin Richards, at South African National Gallery, and 'Life’s Little Necessitates', Curated by Kellie Jones, at the Castle of Good Hope.
The nearest that black South Africa gets to being curatorially included in the Biennale is in the form of Colin Richards, a white curator, writer and Senior Lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. This point is important because the construction of this Biennale does nothing to interrupt the formidable set of cultural and political assumptions that disempower black South Africans, regarding them as culturally worthless and lacking intellectual ability. So black South Africans, with aspirations to curate exhibitions see those aspirations denied and trampled upon. But the worst of this only becomes apparent when we realise that Black South Africa is brutally marginalised twice over: black South Africa, has, by and large, not been asked to participate in this Biennale and neither has black South Africa been addressed by this Biennale…
… The introduction of apartheid in 1948 inflicted colossal damage on the pysche and on the fabric of South Africa and now, when the country is emerging from one of the most traumatic periods of its history, the Johannesburg Biennale steadfastly refuses to acknowledge apartheid and its legacy within the curatorial constructs of these exhibitions. This slap in the face for black South Africa is compounded by the Biennale publicity material. The banners and posters that one sees around Johannesburg and Cape Town have absolutely no resonance with the people. Black South Africa scarcely knows that a Biennale is taking place within its midst, because, suite simply, no-one has bothered to tell them.
The above extracts are from "Johannesburg", a review of the Johannesburg Biennale by Eddie Chambers, in Art Monthly, Number 212, December 1997-January 1998: 14-18. [RTTJ]