Until 2015 no Seychellois artist had ever exhibited at the Venice Biennale, a vast and sprawling collection of shows which dominates Venetian culture for several months and is regarded as the most important contemporary art exposition in the world.
This year has been different however, with Seychellois artists George Camille and Leon Radegonde contributing work to the first Seychelles pavilion, having been selected by international curators following an ‘open call’ for submissions from all artists currently working in Seychelles.
This historic cultural event was organised by the Seychelles Arts Projects Foundation (SAPF), which operates in close association with Arterial Network and shares Arterial’s principal objective, namely to make a significant impact on the development of the arts in Seychelles.
Once the Biennale closed Camille and Radegonde’s work was returned to Seychelles – no easy feat in the case of Camille’s large installation piece – comprising hundreds of hand-made metal leaves – which had to be disassembled, securely packed and shipped. Only then could the work return ‘home’, alongside Radegonde’s large, treated and distressed hessian works. Both artists featured concepts central to the Seychelles, with Camille exploring the possible conflicts between the environment and tourism development and Radegonde archiving Seychelles domestic history through highly charged personal statements.
Last Friday December 12th saw an enthusiastic gathering at Victoria’s Kaz Zanana Art Gallery to witness the opening of an exhibition which features not only the work shown in Venice earlier this year but also additional pieces produced since the Biennale by both artists. Opened by Minister Alain St.Ange the show bears testimony to what is possible when relatively small, under-funded organisations work with determination towards a specific benchmark of achievement. Minister St.Ange praised both participating artists as well as the sponsors – mainly international – who enabled the realisation of the Seychelles pavilion, and spoke of support for future projects arising from the strategic planning of Arterial and SAPF.
The audience heard details of further initiatives currently being planned, including the publication of a major quality book on both the history of art in Seychelles and the contemporary art scene, and the launching of a national portrait competition in Seychelles.
Arterial Chairman Camille pointed out that both arts associations need funding in order to ‘keep making things happen’, a message endorsed by Arterial Secretary Martin Kennedy, who stressed that sponsors can commit to NGOs such as Arterial in the full confidence that funds will be properly utilised in order to raise the profile of the arts in Seychelles through projects that will engage both residents and visitors to the islands. He closed proceedings by urging prospective supporters to contact Arterial Network with a view to creating effective ‘can do’ partnerships and together realise high profile events that will generate interest from all sectors of the community.