Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung © Jana Edisonga, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo
The Berlin-based curator Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung has been appointed curator of the 36th Bienal de São Paulo, which returns to the Pavilhão Ciccillo Matarazzo in 2025.
In a statement, Ndikung says that the biennial “has proven in the past 73 years to be a biennial of and for the people”, and that its “pathbreaking exhibitions, public and pedagogical programmes [have] succeeded in bringing art to varying communities and demographic groups”.
Ndikung adds that he will engage as a pedagogue and curator in “Abya Yala at large”, a term used to describe the pre-colonial Americas, and within Brazil in preparation for the next exhibition. “Despite the challenges that biennials are facing around the world, they still serve as important barometers for measuring the sociopolitical pressures of the world,” he says.
Ndikung was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and has been based in Germany since the late 1990s. He has a background in science, earning a doctorate in medical biotechnology from Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf/TU Berlin and a post-doctorate in biophysics from Université de Montpellier in France.
Earlier this year, Ndikung joined Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) as a curator. He is also a professor at the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin and was the founding director of the art space SAVVY Contemporary. Some of his past projects include roles at Documenta 14, the Dak’Art: African Contemporary Art Biennale in Senegal and as co-curator of the Finnish pavilion of the 2019 Venice Biennale.
Ndikung has been involved in various projects in Brazil in recent years, including as a long-term researcher into the work of the Brazilian artist Abdias Nascimento and as curator of the artist’s largest European show to date at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 2022. He also co-curated the exhibition Um Brasil, Muitas Histórias at the Sesc in São Paulo in 2022 and the exhibition O Quilombismo at the HKW Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2023.
Ndikung’s project for the Bienal de São Paulo and the members of his curatorial team will be announced later this year. His project was selected through a committee formed of board members, staff and Andrea Pinheiro, the recently-elected president of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, which administers the biennial.
In a previous interview, Pinheiro, who has a background in finance, said she will work to expand the size and scope of the biennial during her two-year term. So far, she has increased the number of private donors invested in the biennial from 18 to 48. Each biennial costs around 60m reais ($12m); in the past, around 70% of those funds have come from tax incentive laws and 30% from private donors.