Grada Kilomba / Speaking the Unspeakable / 2018


Goodman Gallery Johannesburg
17 March – 14 April 2018

Speaking the Unspeakable is Grada Kilomba’s first solo exhibition on the African continent and at Goodman Gallery. As a woman artist from the African Diaspora who has recently had two solo museum shows and featured at the 1-54 art fair in Marrakech, this is a significant moment for South African audiences to experience her subversive and singular work on decoloniality.

With a poetic visual language, Kilomba interrupts the ‘white cube’ to create a space that announces the emergence of silenced voices and explores the relationship between speaking, silencing and listening.

Curated by Lara Koseff and with creative production by Moses Leo Speaking the Unspeakable features new work that combines myriad art forms and genres – storytelling, theatre, performance and choreography – to explore several means to speak the unspeakable. In this context, Kilomba uses the term unspeakable as a metaphor for trauma, and the colonial wound, explaining how, ‘colonialism is a wound that has never been properly treated, an infected wound that always hurts, and sometimes bleeds.’

Kilomba (b. 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) is an interdisciplinary artist and writer living in Berlin – with roots in São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola, and Portugal. Her work draws on the repressed history of colonialism and its legacy on memory, trauma, gender, and the conceptualisation of knowledge and narrative. ’Who can speak?’ ‘What can we speak about?’ and ‘What happens when we speak?’ are constant and fragile questions in Kilomba’s body of work.

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. Recognised for her academic excellence, she received a Ph.D. fellowship from the German Heinrich Böll Foundation where she attained a Doctorate in Philosophy (summa cum laude) from the Freie Universität Berlin 2008. Her work 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 writings’, and brings texts into performance – using a variety of formats.

Kilomba has presented work at renowned venues and events, such as 1:54 Marrakech (2018), Documenta 14 in Kassel (2017), 32. Bienal de São Paulo (2016), Art Basel (2016) and SAVYY Contemporary in Berlin (2017), among others. In 2017-2018, she presented two major solo exhibitions in her home country, Portugal, for the first time: The Most Beautiful Language (curated by Gabi Ngcobo) in the Avenida da Índia Gallery at the Municipal Galleries of Lisbon and Secrets to Tell at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT). In June 2018, Secrets to Tell will travel to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Canada’s leading public art gallery dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. This year her piece Illusions was awarded by the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018.

In addition, Kilomba 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, Subjekt, Masken (2005), an anthology on critical whiteness studies. Since 2004, she has been lecturing at several international universities, and last, was a Full Professor at the Humboldt Universität Berlin, department of Gender Studies (2012 – 2013), where her series on ‘Performing Knowledge’ became particularly known, as well as her works ‘Bodies Without Shame’ and ‘Tongues Without Shame’.

  • The Desire Project

    Grada Kilomba

    The Desire Project, 2016

    Three-channel video projection HD in black and white, in loop, with one sound channel, two printed impressions, and...

  • Illusions Vol. I, Narcissus and Echo

    Grada Kilomba

    Illusions Vol. I, Narcissus and Echo, 2017

    Two-channel video installation, HD, colour, sound. Credits: Written, directed, and edited by Grad...

  • The Simple Act of Listening

    Grada Kilomba

    The Simple Act of Listening, 2017

    Installation with a wooden chair, one stool, ten standing microphones of different formats and colours (bl...

  • The Printed Room

    Grada Kilomba

    The Printed Room, 2017

    Installation / Installation with printed pages and sound, variable dimensions

    Edition of 5

  • The Dictionary

    Grada Kilomba

    The Dictionary, 2017

    Five-channel video installation / Five-channel video installation, no audio, 5', looped

    Edition of 5

  • The Chorus

    Grada Kilomba

    The Chorus, 2017

    Wall Installation, a poem printed in vinyl on the wall / Wall Installation, a poem printed in vinyl on the wall.

  • Grada Kilomba

    Plantation Memories, 2018

    Single-channel video installation of staged reading, HD, colour, sound, 14’14", looped. Credits: Written and Dir...

  • Table of books

    Grada Kilomba

    Table of books, 2017

    Installation / Installation with soil and candles

    Edition of 5

  • Table of Goods

    Grada Kilomba

    Table of Goods, 2017

    Installation with soil, sugar, coffee beans, ground coffee, cocoa, dark chocolate and candles

    Edition of...

  • Installation picture [Grada Kilomba / Speaking the Unspeakable / 2018]