It was with a certain feeling of vindication that I boarded the plane to attend the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale last October. Visiting Nelson Mandela’s homeland for the first time can confirm one’s belief in the victory of democracy over dictatorship, of open societies over closed systems. It means that finally I too, a West African, am free to go to South Africa, and am free to give my opinion on directions in contemporary art there. For this Biennale is tied to the end of apartheid, and it owes its specificity to what deputy president Thabo Mbeki calls the African Renaissance.

My first surprise upon arrival was that I was lodged not in a downtown hotel amid skyscrapers and lots of traffic, the Johannesburg I was used to seeing in the movies, but in the suburbs, in a three-story colonial-style building, with a courtyard and indoor swimming pool, surrounded by leafy trees. All the visitors

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