Grada Kilomba (b. 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) is an interdisciplinary artist and writer born in Lisbon and living in Berlin. Kilomba’s work draws on the repressed history of colonialism and its legacy on memory, trauma, race, gender, and knowledge production: ‘who can speak?’ ‘what can we speak about?’ and ‘ What happens when we speak?’ are three constant questions in Kilomba ’s body of work.
Kilomba is best known for her subversive writing and her unconventional use of artistic practices, in which she gives body, voice and image to her own text, using a variety of formats such as Staged Reading, Performance, and Video Installation. In her work, Kilomba intentionally creates a hybrid space between the academic and the artistic languages, and uses storytelling as a central element for her decolonial practices.
Kilomba‘s work has been described to have the powerful beauty of touching ‘the colonial wound’ with a surgical precision, ’bringing a new, experimental and compelling voice to contemporary art and discourse’ (ARTE Brasileiros 2016). She decolonises by subverting content, undoing standard practices and inventing new methods and places of expression. Kilomba entered the contemporary art world, in 2016, when she was invited and commissioned to develop a artwork for the 32. Bienal de São Paulo.
Kilomba’s work has been presented internationally, including: 10. Berlin Biennale; Documenta 14, Kassel; 32. Bienal de São Paulo; Rauma Biennale Balticum; 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; SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin; Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, among others. Her written work has been published in numerous international anthologies and translated into several languages. She is 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, Berlin. And the co-editor of Mythen, Subjekt und Masken (2008), a pioneer anthology on Critical Whiteness.
In 2010, as part of her „Performing Knowledge“ project, Kilomba started experimenting with the performance of theoretical and political texts on stage. Particularly acclaimed became her staged reading „Plantation Memories“ (2012) based on her own book; and her lecture-performance "Decolonising Knowledge“ (2013), a piece reflecting on the concepts of knowledge, race, gender, and violence: “ What is acknowledged as knowledge? And what is not? Whose knowledge is this? And who is acknowledged to produce knowledge?” She was invited by the Maxim Gorki Theatre, in Berlin, to develop the distinguished artist talk series ‘Kosmos²’ (2015-2017), a political intervention in the cultural discourse/ practice, in collaboration with refugee artists.
With roots in Angola, São Tomé e Príncipe and Portugal, Kilomba 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 to Berlin, where she attained a Doctorate in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the Freie Universitä t Berlin, in 2008. Since 2004, She has been lecturing at several international universities, and last, was a Professor at the Humboldt Universitä t Berlin, Department of Gender Studies.