Women dominate key art show; African scoops Orange prize for the first time

// 8 June 2007

Tracey Emin has been selected to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale art festival, and other countries including Poland, France and the Czech Republic have also chosen female artists, reports The Independent.

Emin is only the second woman to represent the UK since the Venice Biennale began in 1895, after Rachael Whiteread. Interestingly, Emin credits the Guerrilla Girls with the choice of a female artist for the slot – last year their campaign highlighted the shocking fact that “more women had shown their work in the Afghan Pavilion than the British one”.

She of the Unmade Bed also had some interesting thoughts on the sacrifice a woman must make to be successful in the British art world:

Emin said becoming one of Britain’s pre-eminent artists had required her to make a choice between career and a family. “I would have had lots of children if I had been a man,” she said. “My career would have been very difficult with children if I wanted to do this. I’m too old to have children so it’s great I’m doing this. This is my reward for being loyal and passionate about what I do.”

Some of the other female artists represented in Venice include Sophie Calle from France, who forwarded a break-up email from a former lover to 107 women and compiled their responses.

Women taking part include the actresses Miranda Richardson and Jeanne Moreau as well as a sexologist, a UN expert in women’s rights and a moral philosopher.

Personally, I like the sound of the work by Polish artist Monika Sosnowska:

The artist, who at 34 years old, is among the youngest, likes to study architecture “from the point of view of its failures” and her work in the biennale is a large scale architectural structure which fills the entire room and is broken or crumbling in parts.

Meanwhile, Chim-amanda Ngozi Adichie has become the first African to win the Orange fiction prize, with Half of a Yellow Sun. The Guardian is carrying an interesting interview with her today.

She has some fascinating things to say about how the West approaches Africa:

Adichie resists stereotypical views of Africa. “We have a long history of Africa being seen in ways that are not very complimentary, and in America [where she has been studying for the past 10 years] being seen as an African writer comes with baggage that we don’t necessarily care for. Americans think African writers will write about the exotic, about wildlife, poverty, maybe Aids. They come to Africa and African books with certain expectations. I was told by a professor at Johns Hopkins University that he didn’t believe my first book [Purple Hibiscus, published in 2003] because it was too familiar to him. In other words, I was writing about middle-class Africans who had cars and who weren’t starving to death, and therefore to him it wasn’t authentically African.”

Photo by Ben Terrett, shared under a Creative Commons license

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