Discover how glass beads influenced the modern world through Canada’s exhibit at Venice Biennale

Canada's entry at Venice Biennale shows how glass beads shaped the modern world

“Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga is making history at the Venice Biennale this year with her unique exhibit Trinket, showcasing the first-ever draped pavilion in luscious cobalt-blue beads. This striking visual spectacle pays homage to the global impact of trade originating from Europe’s historic port city of Venice. Through intricate glass beadwork, Kiwanga delves into the complex histories and power imbalances that have shaped our modern world.

Exploring the Origins of Conterie Beads

The conterie beads, once used as currency and barter, represent the interconnectedness of nations and cultures through trade. With Trinket, Kiwanga takes us on a journey through time, showcasing the exchange of these beads for raw materials like Pernambuco redwood and gold leaf from Brazil and beyond. Each glass bead tells a story of economic disruption and social change in communities where these goods were traded — highlighting the stark power imbalances propagated by colonial and mercantile economies.

From Hamilton to Rome: Kapwani Kiwanga’s Artistic Evolution

Raised in a working-class family in Hamilton, Kiwanga’s early exposure to art and culture ignited her passion for creative expression. After pursuing studies in anthropology and documentary filmmaking, she found her true calling as an artist and honed her craft in prestigious art institutions in Paris and northern France. Since then, Kiwanga has gained international acclaim for her thought-provoking installations and sculptures that challenge societal norms and provoke introspection.

Embracing Complexity and Shaping Histories

Kiwanga’s art transcends labels and boundaries, transcending racial, gender, and cultural stereotypes to delve into the multifaceted nature of human experiences. While being recognized as the first Black female artist to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale holds symbolic significance, Kiwanga remains focused on the essence of her work — exploring the intricate layers of identity, power, and history that shape our world. Her unapologetic approach to artistry and storytelling serves as a reminder that true creativity knows no bounds and can spark meaningful conversations across diverse audiences.

As we immerse ourselves in the mesmerizing world of Trinket, let us reflect on the profound impact of art in challenging established norms, amplifying underrepresented voices, and fostering dialogue on pressing social issues. Kapwani Kiwanga’s transformative vision invites us to question our perceptions, celebrate our differences, and embrace the beauty of diversity in all its forms. In a world fraught with complexities, her art serves as a beacon of hope, unity, and resilience — challenging us to envision a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”



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