Kendell Geers' letter:|
Sent: June 16 2000
Subject: Please help us to save the Johannesburg Biennial!!!!
When Ivo Mesquita was recently fired from the Sao Paulo Bienal for no apparent reason it was the efforts of the global art community that made the bureaucrats realise the consequences and reconsider their decision. There is sadly a precedent that few are aware of and even fewer speak of. In 1997, following the international acclaim and success of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial, artistic director Okwui Enwezor and key members of his team were fired without reason, in addition to which the Johannesburg City council decided to close the exhibition a month earlier than had been scheduled. As a result of the efforts of a few individuals the exhibition managed to stay open as scheduled but the biennial has not survived.
More than 3 years has since passed and every effort to begin the process that would culminate in the third Johannesburg Biennial has failed. As it stands there will never be another Johannesburg Biennial ever again. Neither the Johannesburg City Council nor the National Government's Department of Arts and Culture have given any reasons for this cancellation. Key amongst the reasons inferred is that the Biennial is not perceived as being important to either South Africa or to the international art community.
You can make a difference! If the South African government is made aware of the important role this exhibition plays in life of every african artist as well as the significance it has for the international art community it will have no option but to change its policy. If the Johannesburg City Council is made to realise how this single exhibition has changed the lives and careers of so many key South African artists, both black and white, then perhaps they would change the minds as to its vital importance. As it stands the politicians are listening to the voices of a few individuals in whose interests its lies that the exhibition remain canceled forever. Such an important exhibition should not get caught up in personal politics and hidden agendas.
If the South African government is made aware of the importance this exhibition they will have no option but to begin the process once again. Please now do for Johannesburg, for South Africa and for the entire African continent what you have done for Sao Paulo.