As part of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair London 2022, Portuguese artist Grada Kilomba installed a 32-meter-long sculpture in the Somerset House courtyard. The work is titled O Barco / The Boat and is composed of 140 wood blocks, the configuration of which outlines the lower ‘hold’ of an historical European slave ship. Charred by the artist, the blocks contain poems in 6 different languages, intricately inscribed into their textured surfaces. The sculpture directly addresses the history of European maritime expansion and colonisation. Grada Kilomba’s sculpture invites the audience to consider forgotten stories and identities. Alongside its sculptural elements, the artwork includes live performance, combining song, music, and dance, with music production by award-winning writer and musician Kalaf Epalanga. Designed and directed by the artist, the live ensemble brings new meaning to O Barco / The Boat, both acknowledging memories of the past and looking towards the future.
Grada Kilomba is based in Berlin. The transdisciplinary artist’s work draws on memory, trauma, gender, and postcolonialism, interrogating concepts of knowledge, power, and violence. Grada Kilomba’s installation has been on view in the courtyard throughout 1-54 London, with free performances on the 13th and 14th October 2022.
Grada Kilomba: O Barco / The Boat. Installation and Performance, 1-54 London, Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, Somerset House, London. October 14, 2022.
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