Home UncategorizedEntertainment Embracing Diversity: Foreigners Everywhere at Venice Biennale Celebrates the Joy and Grit of the Global South

Embracing Diversity: Foreigners Everywhere at Venice Biennale Celebrates the Joy and Grit of the Global South

The exhibition features artists whose work has never been showcased in the Western world before.

by Soofiya

In the heart of Venice, amidst the labyrinthine streets and the ancient canals, lies an artistic celebration of diversity and resilience. The Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious events in the art world, has always been a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and expressions. This year, a particularly striking exhibition titled “Foreigners Everywhere” is capturing the attention of visitors and critics alike, offering a poignant reflection on the narratives of the Global South.

As one steps into the exhibition space, they are immediately enveloped in a kaleidoscope of colors, sounds, and stories from distant lands. “Foreigners Everywhere” is not merely an assortment of artworks; it is a journey—a journey through the joys and struggles, the triumphs and tribulations of those whose voices often go unheard in the mainstream discourse.

The artists featured in the exhibition hail from diverse corners of the Global South, each bringing their unique perspective and experiences to the forefront. From the bustling streets of Lagos to the serene landscapes of Bangladesh, every piece resonates with a powerful authenticity that transcends geographical boundaries.

One of the most captivating aspects of “Foreigners Everywhere” is its celebration of resilience in the face of adversity. Through mediums ranging from painting and sculpture to multimedia installations, the artists delve into themes of displacement, conflict, and cultural hybridity. Yet, amidst the chaos and upheaval, there is an undeniable sense of resilience—a refusal to be defined solely by one’s circumstances.

For instance, a series of photographs by an Afghan artist captures the everyday lives of refugees living in makeshift camps, their faces bearing witness to both the pain of displacement and the resilience of the human spirit. In another corner of the exhibition, a vibrant mural pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of indigenous communities in Latin America, celebrating their enduring connection to the land despite centuries of marginalization.

But “Foreigners Everywhere” is not just about showcasing the struggles of the Global South; it is also a celebration of its rich cultural tapestry and indomitable spirit. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the rhythmic beats of African drumming, the intricate patterns of South Asian textiles, and the vibrant flavors of Caribbean cuisine—all serving as reminders of the beauty and vitality of cultures often relegated to the margins.

Moreover, the exhibition serves as a powerful rebuttal to the prevailing narrative of “otherness” that often characterizes discussions about immigration and globalization. By foregrounding the voices and experiences of those deemed “foreign,” it challenges visitors to confront their own preconceptions and biases, fostering a greater sense of empathy and solidarity across borders.

Adriano Pedroso’s latest exhibition at the Venice Biennale, titled “Foreigners Everywhere,” may sound like a critique at first glance, but it’s far from it. Instead, the exhibition shines a spotlight on art that has been overlooked in the past century and celebrates the multiculturalism of the Global South.

Featuring contributions from over 100 artists, the exhibition captures the joy and political resilience of works created by marginalized artists while the mainstream art world was preoccupied with commercial interests or focused solely on a Western canon.

The exhibition is divided into two main sections: the “contemporary nucleus” showcased at the Arsenale, the former arms storehouse of the Venice Republic, and the “nucleus of stories” housed in the International Pavilion of the Giardini, where the Biennale’s national pavilions are located.

These sections roughly categorize contemporary and modernist works, but curator Adriano Pedroso intentionally blurs the lines between historical and contemporary, weaving together narratives from vastly different geographical regions.

Textiles play a significant role, particularly in the Arsenale. Traditionally considered less prestigious than oil painting, textile art, including embroidery, weaving, and quilting, takes center stage here. Artists like Pacita Abad from the Philippines, Claudia Alarcon from the Wichi people of northern Argentina (collaborating with the collective Silat), and the women who created embroidered arpilleras during Pinochet’s regime in Chile reclaim these mediums, highlighting their cultural significance.

Pedroso also emphasizes the contemporary relevance of textile art, as seen in Dana Awartani’s impactful piece, “Come, let me heal your wounds. Let me mend your broken bones, as we stand here mourning” (2024). Awartani’s installation, comprised of dyed silk blocks, maps the destruction of cultural sites across the Arab world, serving as a poignant commentary on the ravages of war.

The exhibition also delves into the theme of art as testimony, particularly in the context of conflict. This theme runs throughout both sections of the exhibition, emphasizing the urgent and essential role of art as a cultural medium.

In the Giardini, the exhibition presents two salon-style presentations showcasing masterworks of global modernism: one focused on abstraction and the other on portraiture from Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia.

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, speaking at the preview, expresses relief at seeing art from the region without it being juxtaposed solely with European paintings. The inclusion of works from regional collections such as the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah and Mathaf in Doha reflects a growing recognition of the importance of collecting the region’s art history.

Pedroso uses these presentations to draw connections between different artistic movements, highlighting the vibrant colors and rich traditions that often surpass Western painting.

Despite its deliberate focus on historical practices, “Foreigners Everywhere” is ironically perceived as a departure from standard curatorial approaches. Pedroso’s role as the first South American curator at the Biennale underscores the ongoing need to expand art’s geographical boundaries and challenge Western-dominated structures.

Ultimately, the exhibition serves as a reminder of art’s power to resist official narratives and amplify alternative realities, particularly in the Global South. Works like those by Rosa Elena Currurich from Guatemala, Aycoobo from Colombia, and the Aravani Art Project from Bangalore document political struggles and diverse modes of artistic expression, uniting in solidarity against dominant Western paradigms.

As I navigate through the labyrinthine corridors of “Foreigners Everywhere,” I am struck not only by the diversity of artistic expressions on display but also by the profound sense of interconnectedness that binds us all together as fellow inhabitants of this planet. In celebrating the joy and grit of the Global South, the exhibition reminds us that our differences are not barriers to be overcome but rather threads in the rich tapestry of human experience.

In a world that often seems increasingly divided, “Foreigners Everywhere” offers a glimpse of hope—a reminder that, despite our diverse backgrounds and experiences, we are all part of the same human family, united by our shared humanity. And as I bid farewell to Venice and the mesmerizing spectacle of the Biennale, I carry with me a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for the beauty of our world in all its glorious diversity.

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