From One Citizen You Gather an Idea
Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.
Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration…
Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897
The first national Pavilion of the Republic of Mauritius is based on a dialogue between Mauritian and European artists. Mauritius is a fusion of cultures, languages and ethnicities, with its population made of Indian, African, Chinese and European descendants; the co-presence of temples, churches and mosques in every town of this island nation reveals this diversity. Virtually uninhabited until the end of the 16th century, the island was then ruled by the Dutch, French and British, before gaining independence in 1968. The newly born state has managed not only to maintain close ties with their former rulers, but also to establish an economic relationship with the USSR. Since 2000 the Ibrahim Index of African Governance has consistently rated Mauritius as the best-governed African nation in terms of safety, economic development and human rights.
However in art and culture, different sets of assessments apply; there is a short distance to questioning the value and relevance of the contemporary cultural output of a region in relation to the global artworld. The world creates facts, and art creates facts of a different order; an artwork is a new fact in the world whose value other people, from other places and times, will decide. The Pavilion is not only a slice of the Mauritian artistic and cultural scene, but also a powerful take on Western conventions when it comes to assessing the ‘art now’, where there is always the danger of repetition of the same sets of canons and critical approaches to the issues of the day.
We believe art has more profound meaning when challenging its own structure and relationships. Consequently the seven participating artists from Europe, based in established art centres such as the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, are each invited to present a work in response to the work by seven artists based in Mauritius, a remote island in the Indian Ocean. The artists are invited to challenge each other’s aesthetic and ideological canons, initiating discussions about art theory and practice, colonial heritage and postcolonial relations, education and politicisation of culture.
With this indirect approach to the idea of inclusiveness and difference, carried out by the work of thirteen prominent artists in their respective countries, the Pavilion of Mauritius aims to ‘take the temperature’ of the global art world, and provide – besides a lot of questions – some answers.