Wednesday 20 April 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 20/4/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Roberto Marossi

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Tracking changes

Inside the Giardini, art folk wielding tote bags and wearing all-black outfits are arriving for the opening week of the Venice Biennale. On the newsstands by the entrance, a headline reads, “Venezia scoppia” (“Venice is bursting”). The Biennale Arte is the most extravagant, attention-grabbing of the city’s regular appointments and, after a three-year absence, Venetians largely seem happy about its return.

And yet, having had the city almost to themselves since 2020, there’s some ambivalence. “In a way, it’s fantastic: everyone [in the art world] is so excited to come back and see each other,” says Chiara Bertola, the curator of contemporary art at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, who is presenting an exhibition of work by Vietnamese artist Danh Võ. “But on the other hand, the chaos of tourism in Venice is a pain.” The feeling here is that the city missed an opportunity to change and grow over the pandemic and learn to better manage mass tourism.

But has the biennale learned anything in the past three years? Perhaps. Russia’s pavilion stands empty near that of the Nordics, which has been transformed for this edition into the Indigenous Sámi pavilion. In their own ways, both highlight the limits of national representation. Some attendees have also travelled across the continent by train instead of flying, suggesting that the art world is increasingly conscious of its emissions.

Some things are as they always were: the atmosphere remains upbeat and festive. “It has been really joyful for us to meet so many people we haven’t seen in so long,” says Viktor Neumann, co-curator of the Romanian pavilion, who is presenting a video installation about intimacy by artist Adina Pintilie. “Our work is about bodies coming together, so it feels extremely exciting to have all this now.” Despite some desire for change, it’s the irresistible temptations of normality and interaction that are most on show in Venice’s packed calli and pavilions this week.

Image: Kosovo Prime Minister’s Office

Media / Kosovo & Ukraine

Taking residence

Journalists in Kosovo know a thing or two about covering war at home, which is perhaps the thinking behind the country’s “Journalists-in-Residence” programme. Established by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and backed by the Kosovan government, the six-month scheme grants international journalists €1,000 for relocation costs, a monthly €500 allowance and a €300 stipend towards housing, as well as access to office space, healthcare and language classes. The first Ukrainian journalist displaced by the conflict with Russia, Opendemocracy’s Lyudmila Makey, arrived this weekend and was greeted by prime minister Albin Kurti (pictured, on right, with Makey). Kosovo plans to host 20 journalists under the programme and public broadcaster RTK has promised that its newsroom will be open for use as a workspace for at least four Ukrainians on the scheme. While reporters continue to cover the war from inside Ukraine, such initiatives create safe spaces for stories from the country to be told from beyond its borders too.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Mali

Brothers in arms

Malian armed forces in Bamako have received another shipment of military equipment from Russia. The delivery, which included surveillance radars and two attack helicopters, was hailed by Mali’s armed forces chief, Major-General Oumar Diarra, as “a manifestation of the very fruitful partnership with the Russian state”. The move comes after European powers announced the suspension of military training operations in Mali, citing obstructions related to Russian-affiliated mercenaries, as well as reports of human rights abuses in the former French colony.

But while Europe’s support has dwindled, Russia’s presence in Mali has grown in recent years. It is part of Vladimir Putin’s wider ambition to expand Moscow’s influence in Africa by strengthening economic and military co-operation. It’s a crucial reason why, when it comes to the war in Ukraine, the allegiance of African nations such as Mali cannot be taken for granted.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Thailand

Fruity number

When Thai musician Danupha “Milli” Khanatheerakul performed at California’s Coachella music festival over the weekend, few could have anticipated the effect that her finale would have at home. Following her on-stage antics, Milli finished the set by eating a bowl of mango sticky rice (pictured), a Thai dessert laced with coconut milk. The teenage rapper’s fresh twist on the stale mic drop has caused a fruit frenzy across Thailand: street vendors are running out of the pudding and mango exporters are eyeing a surge in overseas demand. The government is even considering an application to Unesco for heritage status and prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha has called for more international displays of Thai soft power. However, the embattled ex-army general is presumably a bigger fan of the traditional dessert than of Milli herself: Thailand’s rising star was fined last year for criticising Prayut’s handling of the pandemic – a sticky situation that wouldn’t have gone down well in freedom-loving California.

Image: Shutterstock

Culture / Brazil

Street spirit

The Brazilian Carnival and Rio de Janeiro’s joyous parade of samba schools had to be delayed this year because of a spike in coronavirus cases but the postponement hasn’t affected the city’s enthusiasm for the spectacle now that it’s finally getting under way. The first group of schools will showcase their dance styles today in Rio’s purpose-built parade area, Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí; this will be followed by other parades until the end of the week.

The samba schools each tend to take on a different theme but several of this year’s shows celebrate Afro-Brazilian culture and highlight racism and inequality in the country. After all, carnival is, in many ways, a mirror of Brazilian society. Hotel occupancy in Rio is expected to hit 85 per cent, much higher than usual for April, with visitors eager to see the festivities back in the cidade maravilhosa (“wonderful city”).

Image: Josie Hall

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Spring music releases

Georgie Rogers and Fernando Augusto Pacheco join Robert Bound to look ahead to the most exciting albums of the coming months, including new releases from a Brazilian pop star, a classic British indie band and a camera-shy cowboy.

Monocle Films / Global

The future of Japanese craftsmanship

For the release of our book about Japan, we produced a film series that dives into the intriguing ecosystem that has preserved Japanese traditional skills over centuries. Meet the people who are future-proofing the age-old know-how.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00