The presence of artists of African descent at the Venice Bienniale 2019 can be roughly divided into two categories: those who showed in “their” national pavilions, and those who were invited by Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of the 58th Venice Biennial, to contribute to his exhibition. The criteria for “artists of African descent” are hard to define because everyone is on the move: to study, to work, to join partners, or forced to leave. Some were born abroad, yet feel connected to the continent.

Generously counting, Rugoff invited ten of “African descent” to be part of his small group of only seventy-nine artists. This included three African Americans, who investigate the realities of black experiences. While recent biennials had double the number of artists, this time two sets of works were asked from each participant to be shown parallel, in both the Arsenale and the Giardini.

Egypt was the...

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