Grada Kilomba’s work encompasses post-colonial studies, gender studies, theatre and literature. Her work fuses artistic and academic languages, making indiscriminate use of diverse media, such as texts, books, photography, video, installation, staging, music and lecture-performance. “I have no interest in working in a single discipline; I’m interested in telling stories,” she says.
She is a word artist, drawing upon her roots in Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe and harnessing contemporary and ancestral black oral traditions everywhere from Africa to its diasporas to tell stories of slavery, colonialism and everyday racism. By playing out change in her main characters and customary narrators, she puts the voices and bodies of those who are customarily silent at the centre of the discourse.
Her voice transports us to digital and futuristic scenarios, featuring graphic art in a minimalist style against a black or white background, with tightly orchestrated lighting, sound, text and composition, and where black actors and the artist herself move around the scenes, talking.
By staging foundational texts such as the myths of Narcissus and Echo, telling the story of Anastacia, a slave woman, or reading from her book Memórias de Plantação [Plantation Memories], Kilomba exposes the importance of raising awareness and deconstructing racism, and the steps that need to be taken as part of that process: “denial, guilt, shame, recognition and reparation”.