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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

10 - The Cultural Diplomacy of Imaginary Fact

from Part II - Representing Transitional Justice on the Global Stage


Chapter 10, The Cultural Diplomacy of Imaginary Fact, theorises the exhibition in the 2013 South Africa Pavilion at the International Art Biennale in Venice as a unique instance of cultural diplomacy. Imaginary Fact plays a paradoxical role in the process of nation building because it presents a dual image of a nation struggling with ongoing internal complexities, while projecting a collective narrative of a state that has undergone a difficult transition and come out the other side to re-assert itself in the international community. By examining South Africa’s conception of cultural diplomacy presented in government white papers, I show how the official image of South Africa as a global competitor (a transitioned nation) sits uncomfortably with the artists’ image of South Africa as a transitioning nation circumscribed by ongoing challenges to human rights. I argue that this establishes a glocal (global–local) image of the state which is in tension with South Africa’s foreign policy agenda.