Grada Kilomba Heroines, Birds and Monsters

Grada Kilomba
Heroines, Birds and Monsters

“Heroines, Birds and Monsters” is the first solo exhibition of Grada Kilomba in the United States, presenting her unique form of storytelling. Working with theory, performance, film, and literature, Kilomba reveals the narratives of the colonial past, giving space to the silenced voices whose traumas are ever present. In her own words: “What if history has not been told properly? What if our history is haunted by cyclical violence precisely because it has not been buried properly?“

Kilomba’s work is showcased across three of Amant’s buildings, transforming them into a theater stage where characters, gestures, words, sounds and props unfold into a hybrid body, exchanging roles and staging a new dramaturgy that traverses geographies and temporalities.

“Heroines, Birds and Monsters” is an exhibition that applies a new poetic, theoretical, and political framework to the colonial past, and the ways by which these narratives continue to embed themselves. "Retelling history anew and properly is a necessary ceremony, a political act. Otherwise, history becomes haunted. It repeats itself. It returns intrusively, as fragmented knowledge, interrupting and assaulting our present lives.” –Grada Kilomba.

We would like to thank the Goethe-Institut for their generous contribution.

Photo: Heroines, Birds and Monsters series, Sphinx, Act I, 2020
C-Print, 60 x 40 in.

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About the artist

Grada Kilomba (born 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) lives and works in Berlin.

Her work has been exhibited at biennials such as the 32nd São Paulo Biennial; Documenta 14, Kassel; the 10th Berlin Biennale; and the 13th Lubumbashi Biennale. She has had recent solo exhibitions at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporánea (MUAC), Mexico City (2021); Bildmuseet, Umeå (2019); Pinacoteca de São Paulo (2019); The Power Plant, Toronto (2018); and the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), Lisbon (2017). Her work has been included in group exhibitions at ARoS, Aarhus (2021); Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2021); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2021); Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2020); La Base Sousmarine, Bordeaux (2021); Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo (2020); Kadist Art Foundation, Paris (2019); and Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (PAC), Milan (2019), among others.

Kilomba’s work draws on memory, trauma, and post-colonialism. Best known for her subversive writing and poetic imagery, Kilomba gives voice, body, and image to her own writings—what she describes as performing knowledge. “What stories are told? How are they told? And told by whom?” are persistent questions in Kilomba’s body of work, explored through performance, staged reading, theater, choreography, video, photography, and installation.

Kilomba holds a distinguished Doctorate in Philosophy from the Freie Universität Berlin. She has lectured at several international universities, such as the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Humboldt Universität in Berlin; and for several years she was a guest artist at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin, directing Kosmos², an artistic intervention with war survivors and political refugee artists. Her written work has been translated into several languages and published in several international anthologies. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book Plantation Memories (Unrast, 2008), a compilation of episodes of everyday racism written in the form of short psychoanalytical stories.

Her work was awarded the Jury’s Honourable Mention at LOOP Barcelona in 2020 and she was the recipient of a grant from the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in 2018. Kilomba’s work features in public and private collections worldwide, including the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon and the Tate Modern Collection in London.

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The phrase “hearing voices” has been associated with a state of mind where an individual hears words imperceptible to others. Drawing on the term’s flexibility, we like to think about “hearing voices” as a metaphor for a “listening” that generates real recognition, empathy, and understanding.
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