STELLENBOSCH, South Africa — For tourists, this prim colonial town is the gateway to a spectacular mountain region dotted with wine estates. To most South Africans, however, it is the redoubt of the Afrikaner elite, a Calvinist town whose university trained the framers of apartheid and where banking billionaires roost today. In a land that is sharply unequal despite 26 years of democracy, money and whiteness feel especially concentrated here.
Either way, it’s an unexpected place for a contemporary art exhibition — particularly of the experimental, pan-Africanist variety, with artists from around the continent, none of them white, exploring economic and cultural themes led by a curator steeped in black feminism and Xhosa spirituality.
So when the first-ever Stellenbosch Triennale began last month, and artists mingled with Afrikaner finance types at the opening-night party while hip DJs from Cape Town spun Nigerian and Congolese dance hits, even the organizers who intended this effect did a double-take.