Grada Kilomba is a interdisciplinary artist and writer, born in Lisbon and living in Berlin.
Her work draws on memory, trauma, race, gender, and the decolonisation of knowledge: ‘who can speak?’ ‘what can we speak about?’ and ‘What happens when we speak?’ are three constant questions in Kilomba’s body of work. In her work, she intentionally creates a hybrid space between the academic and the artistic languages, and uses storytelling as a central element for her decolonial practices.
She is best known for her subversive and her unconventional use of artistic practices, in which she gives body, voice and image to her own text – what she describes as Performing Knowledge – using a variety of formats such as Publication, Performance, Staged Reading, Installation, Film, Text Collage, Sound and Video Installation.
She is the author of Plantation Memories (2008) a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories; and the co-editor of Mythen, Masken und Subjekte (2005), an anthology on Critical Whiteness Studies.
Her artworks have been presented internationally, including at: 10. Berlin Biennale; Documenta 14, Kassel; 32. Bienal de São Paulo; Rauma Biennal Balticum; Art Basel; Frieze London, Cape Town Art Fair; 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, Marrakech; The Power Plant, Toronto; MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, Lisbon; Galeria Avenida da Índia, Lisbon; WdW Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Secession Museum, Vienna; Bozar Museum, Brussels; SAVYY Contemporary, Berlin; Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, among others.
Kilomba is represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa.
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
With roots in Angola, São Tomé e Príncipe and Portugal, Kilomba was born in Lisbon where she studied Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis at the ‘ISPA – Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada’ in Lisbon. There, she worked in the psychiatry department with war survivors from Angola and Mozambique. Strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon, Kilomba started writing, and developing projects on memory, trauma and colonialism, extending her concerns to form, language, and performance.
Recognised for her academic excellence, Kilomba received a Ph.D. fellowship from the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, and moved from Lisbon to Berlin, where she attained a Doctorate in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the Freie Universität Berlin, in 2008.
Since 2004, she has been lecturing at several international universities, and last, was a Professor at the Humboldt Universität Berlin, department of Gender Studies. Her work in the academia was known for its hybridity, in which Kilomba combined theory, writing, and performance as integral part of her seminars; among others she developed for several years the works Bodies Without Shame – Decolonial Feminism; Tongues Without Shame – Decolonizing Knowledge and Performing Knowledge.
Her written work has been published in numerous international anthologies and translated into several languages. She is the co-editor of Mythen, Subjekt und Masken (2008), a pioneer anthology on Critical Whiteness; and the author of Plantation Memories (2008), a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories, and released at the International Literature Festival, at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin. Soon after its release, her book became internationally acclaimed, and Kilomba started presenting herself on stage with performative readings of her own book, at prominent theatres, literary and academic venues.
In 2011, she was awarded as one of “The Most Inspirational Black Women in Europe” by the Austrian BWIE due to her writings and performative readings; and in 2013, she was named a “Woman of Excellence” by the German Sonne Magazine.
Later on, Kilomba extended her concerns to the performance of knowledge - Performing Knowledge -, and started experimenting the use of theoretical and political texts on stage and the performance and the visualisation of post-colonial narratives. As Kilomba argued “I am interested on working in-between disciplines and on creating hybrid spaces where the boundaries between the academic and the artistic languages confine, in order to transform the configurations of knowledge and power.”
Among others, she adapted Nuruddin Farah’s book ‘ Yesterday, Tomorrow’ (2010) as well as her own book Plantation Memories into a staged reading (2012), and developed numerous lecture-performances. Particularly relevant is her lecture-performance Decolonising Knowledge (2013), presented internationally. A piece reflecting on the concepts of knowledge, race, and gender, exposing not only how violence can be produced through knowledge production, but also how this violence is performed in academic, cultural and artistic spaces: “What is acknowledged as knowledge? Whose knowledge is this? Who is acknowledged to produce knowledge?”
In 2015, during the ‘European migrant crisis’ and the controversial architectonic project ‘Humboldt Forum’, Kilomba was honourably invited by the Maxim Gorki Theatre, in Berlin, to make an artistic and political intervention. During the 19th century, after his colonial journeys, Humboldt held his famous lectures ‘Kosmos’ at the Singakademie zu Berlin, today’s Maxim Gorki Theatre , to describe and classify the world. Kilomba raised the question of how can we today transform spaces and decolonise concepts of knowledge? During two years she developed the acclaimed series titled KOSMOS² (2015 – 2017) at Studio R, a performative intervention and critical dialogue where artists who were forced to leave home, cross borders, and become refugees are in conversation with Kilomba exploring the importance of subversive artistic practices.
More recently, Kilomba started experimenting with film and installation. Kilomba’s highly thought provoking works, have been presented in many different international platforms, mostly within academia and theatre. In a recent interview to the Shirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt Magazine (2018) she says “My work is very experimental and hybrid. It is a work that can be placed everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
Kilomba entered the contemporary art world, in 2016, when she was invited to and commissioned to develop a work for the 32. Biennal of São Paulo.
This followed Documenta 14, in Kassel 2017; two major solo exhibitions at Galeria Avenida da Índia in Lisbon (2017) curated by Gabi Ngcobo, at MAAT- Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon (2017) curated by Inês Grosso; and several international group exhibitions, including two shows at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and Cape Town (2017), at Museu Serralves in Oporto (2017), and at the Museu das Artes in Belo Horizonte (2017); by the end of the same year, the International Film Festival Rotterdam awarded her artwork Illusions Vol. I , Narcissus and Echo (2017).
2018 Secrets to Tell, The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada
2018 Speaking the Unspeakable, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
2017 Secrets to Tell, MAAT – Museum of Art, Architecture. and Technology, Lisbon, Portugal
2017 The Most Beautiful Language, Gallery Avenida da Índia, EGEAC, Lisbon, Portugal
2018 In Context: I was waiting for this Past. Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2018 Art Basel, Switzerland
2018 We don’t need another hero, 10. Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany
2017 Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, selected artist to represent the 32. Bienal de São Paulo, Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura , Fortaleza, Brazil
2017 3. Berliner Herbstsalon, Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany
2017 The Silences Between, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2017 Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, selected artist to represent the 32. Bienal de São Paulo, at the Palace of Arts, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
2017 SouthSouth – Let Me Begin Again, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2016 O futuro será uma réplica – The future will be a replica, Consul of Portugal in São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Incerteza Viva – Live Uncertainty, 32. Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Vulnerability, Rauma Biennial Balticum, Rauma, Finnland
2016 Knowledge Unbounded, Department of Arts and Aesthetics Edxhibition, University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
2016 Banquete Antropofágico – Anthropophagic Banquet, Department of Contemporary Arts Exhibition, University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2017 Documenta 14, Kassel, Germany
2017 SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, Germany
2017 Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
2016 Teatro Vila Velha, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil
2016 32. Bienal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Theatre Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany
2016, Wits Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa
2016 Theatre Münchner Kammerspiel, Munich, Germany
2016 Goethe Institut Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
2016 TheaterTreffen, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany
2016 Secession Museum Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2016 University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
2016 University of Accra, Accra, Ghana
2016 Berliner Festspiele, Berlin
2016 Kampnagel, Hamburg, Germany
2016 Mostra Internacional de Teatro em São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Bozar Museum for Contemporary Arts, Brussels, Belgium
2016 SOAS University of London, London, UK
2015 Theatre Münchner Kammerspiel, Munich, Germany
2015 Antwerpen Museum, Antwerpen, Belgium
2015 Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2015 Theatre Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany
2015 International Arts Center José Guimarães, Guimarães, Portugal
2015 Theatre Ballhaus Naunynstrass, Berlin, Germany
2015 Oslo House of Literature, Oslo, Norway
SELECTED ARTIST TALKS/ LECTURES
2017 Academy of Arts Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2017 Transmediale, House of the World Cultures, Berlin, Germany
2017 Art Fair Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2017 Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany
2016 AfroTranscendente, São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Goethe Institut Salvador da Bahia, Bahia, Brazil
2016 Berlin University of Arts – UdK, Berlin, Germany
2016 ArtBasel, Basel, Switzerland
2016 Mousonturm House of Arts, Frankfurt, Germany
2016 University of Accra, Accra, Ghana
2016 Goethe Institut São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
2016 Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany
2015 Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Vienna, Austria
2015 Theatre Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, Berlin, Germany
2015 University of Linköping, Linköping, Sweden
2015 Free University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
2015 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Holland
2015 University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
2015 Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany