In preparation for the Biennale, every country makes strategic decisions.
They have to decide who is going to represent them and why. They have to focus on whether a truly contemporary artist should produce a work specific to the year's Biennale, or whether they can opt to draw from a collection, using a modernish artist to present an aspect of their country's society or artworld. Do they put forward a solo show, a collective or use the platform to show the work of multiple artists?
The Biennale is the world's oldest and longest running art fair, but it is a tale of haves and don't have yets.
For every established country that has decades' of experience exhibiting, established networks and the tools they need to put on a show, there are also "emerging art" nations who are new to, or still in the early days of their association. Add a pandemic to the complexity already provided by transport, logistics and costs and you can get a feeling for how countries have to make their decisions.
This year, as with most years, I enjoyed trips into established pavilions (like South Africa) as much a I did to visits to pavilions run by first timers Uganda and second timers Ghana.
The themes, styles and approaches in those three pavilions varied widely, but in each of the exhibits there was one artist that really stood out for me.
In the South African pavilion, of the three artists whose work was on show, it was Lebohang Kganye's B(l)ack to Fairy Tales, with all its whimsy, nostalgia and sheer bonkersness that completely enthralled me.
Essentially, Kganye casts herself as Snow Black, working her way into a series of self portraits. But we're not talking Hans Christian Andersen here; she's moving in and out of the world of fairy tales, but the settings are always in African townships.
There's so much going on in the images; the lack of sharpness in the image reminds us that we're under the spell of hazy memories and the settings ask us to think about the realities that people in South Africa have to face every day. (Arsenale)
For their first ever Biennale, Uganda elected to go with two established artists; Acaye Kerunen and Collin Sekajugo for the Radiance: They dream In Time exhibition.
The pavilion, a collateral event at the Biennale, meaning it is located in the city of Venice rather than at the Giardini and Arsenale grounds, offered a mix of sculpture, installations and paintings but it was the sometimes painting, sometimes collage work of Collin Sekajugo that I loved the most.
Frankly, I was trepidacious about even setting foot into the Ugandan pavilion, given the country's horrific record when it comes to LGBT citizens, but I am really glad I did.
Uganda's own organising committee, in its notes on the exhibit, points to how Uganda's art scene is still fledgling. But the quality of the work on show here, especially in Sekajugo's Call Centre Girls makes it worth tracking down in Venice if you can get google maps to cooperate long enough.
GHANA also elected for a multiple artist approach for this, its second Biennale.
This year, three artists were selected by the director of the country's institute of arts and head of musuems and cultural heritage- Nana Oforiatta Ayim - to represent Ghana in Black Star, this year's presentation at the Biennale.
Of the three artists showing, it was the work of Na Chainkua Reindorf which appealed to me most.
Whilst Chainkua Reindorf created a site specific installation for the show, it was her paintings that appealed to me most.
The paintings, which sometimes include textiles and traditional fabrics, recast women into roles that have always been reserved for men in Ghana's myths and narratives.
Her images, which are at times playful and thought provoking, are incredibly graphic in nature, yet with the inclusion of the fabrics, they seem to interweave traditional elements into the works.
For the Ghana and South Africa exhibitions, you'll need a ticket to Arsenale.
For the Uganda exhibition, you'll need a good map and sturdy walking shoes.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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