South African Pavilion

For 2017, Performa is delighted to announce our Pavilion Without Walls series for the countries of Estonia and South Africa. 

Launched in 2013, the Performa Pavilion Without Walls showcases the most vibrant and significant art from a particular country or region, fostering cultural exchange and connecting international artists with global audiences and the New York City cultural landscape. Since 2013 Performa has presented the Pavilion Without Walls for the countries of Norway, Poland, and Australia.


South Africa has long been an area of fascination for Performa. Since the first Biennial in 2005, the organization has brought artists and groups such as Bernie Searle, Candice Breitz, Athi-Patra Ruga, Robin Rhode, William Kentridge and Chimurenga to share their distinct visions with New York audiences. The South African Pavilion Without Walls at Performa 17, curated by RoseLee Goldberg, takes a deeper look at the country in order to investigate the artistic practices developing in the post-apartheid era, which represents one of the most complicated and vigorous environments for artists in a state of constant invention. During the eighties and nineties, artists from different generations simultaneously shifted away from and expanded modes of production that were informed by resistance culture, modern and contemporary western art as much as African culture and custom adapted to emerging global changes. For South African artists, art and politics are not separate spheres of creativity but complex systems that play important cultural and intellectual roles. Performance, in particular, has always served as an integral part of the aesthetic communications for these artists. It has also provided an important outlet as it speaks across the multitude of cultures, languages, tribes, identities, songs and landscapes of South Africa and beyond. Bringing together artists who have developed deeply personal and individual vocabularies in the post-apartheid culture, Performa 17 aims to elucidate the complex strategies and conceptual frameworks defined by the contradiction, disparity, and skepticism generated in the wake of dramatic political shifts, and to reveal their relevance to the global conversation.

Commissions and projects in the South African Pavilion Without Walls includes:

  • Zanele Muholi
  • Kemang Wa Lehulere
  • Nicholas Hlobo
  • William Kentridge
  • Mohau Modisakeng